A few years ago, the Seattle Times ran a series of articles on aging. One of the articles noted that on average, men look in the mirror and ask the question, “Do I look old?” at the age of 52, while women looked in the mirror and asked the same question at the age of 60. My theory is that by the age of 52, many men have begun to lose their hair and a receding hairline raises the question for men. Of course, today, when boys and men sport shaved or almost-shaved heads, it’s hard to tell who is balding or not. Even my son, at the age of 15 had a “bald” head.
So we have an idea of when we think we look “old,” but when do other people think we look or are old?
On the night before Christmas Eve this year, my mother-in-law held her traditional “7-11” Christmas party. As I understand it, this dinner party began when my mother-in-law and her two best friends (both now gone), had young families. I was invited to my first “7-11” party the Christmas before my husband and I were engaged, and we, and our now grown children, have been attending for the past 30 years.
The highlight of the party is the “7-11” game in which everyone, young and old, stands around a table that has a mound of wrapped presents in the middle. Each person takes turns rolling dice. If you roll a 7 or 11, you select a present from the mountain of presents, OR you may take from someone else at the table. Should you roll a 7 or 11, not only do you take a present, you get to roll again. If you roll doubles, you get to roll again. The timer was set for 25 minutes.
This year there were 17 people around the table, ranging from 6 to 87 years. Suffice it to say, because people can take presents from each other and there is a time limit, the game can get very heated. And there is always someone who is “hot” and rolls 7 or 11 consistently and accumulates a stack of presents, while this year, my sister-in-law Liz, never once rolled a 7 or 11. The competition gets so fierce that my kids and their cousins were texting each other for days before the party, arranging alliances to take presents from one of the other cousins who won “big time” last year.
At the end of the game, when the buzzer goes off, everyone opens whatever presents they have won. Typical presents are boxes of tissue, boxes of instant pudding, tooth brushes, candy, and “Big Gram” always wraps three $1 bills in a small box – the grand prize. Obviously, the presents are not the “prize” as much as the spirit, competition, laughter, and love experienced.
This year, in the heat of the game, my nephew, a 25-year-old Marine reservist who is studying for his MBA, upon noting that my sister-in-law and I were winning “big time,” yelled “the old ladies are winning everything!” He didn’t mean it in a mean way, but it made me wonder when I had become one of the “old ladies”? At Keiro’s Los Angeles campus, where the average age of the residents is 85, I’m one of the younger people.
According to Wikipedia, “old lady” may refer to a mother, girlfriend, wife, the Bank of England, a football club in Italy, or type of moth. And of course, there was the old lady who swallowed a fly, the “Little Old Lady from Pasadena,” and the young lady-old lady illusion. Looking at this illusion, it dawned on me that the women are one and the same. Just like this lady, I, too, am simultaneously the young lady and the old lady, and I can choose to be one or both at any time. So it makes sense to enjoy the joys of the past, but to embrace the transitions ahead.
Even the Sixties’ supermodel Twiggy is embracing aging. “I think getting panicked about aging is not worth it — I was 60 last year, and it’s all part of life. I really think you have to embrace all the different ages.”
“I’m very lucky because I’m healthy — if you’re healthy, you’ve got everything — and I’ve got a lovely husband and gorgeous kids.”
For tips on staying healthy from the US Department of Health and Human Services’ Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, see “Women: Stay Healthy at 50+ – Checklists for Your Health”, and embrace your whole self.