My friend survived another trip around the sun, and I searched for an appropriate birthday card to send her.

I noticed that many cards contained exaggerated, pathetic caricatures that resembled cruel and unusual punishment for still being alive. An entire industry now creates snarky greeting cards and ready-made emails that mock seasoned women. I’m not going to buy or send them.

One card was particularly egregious as it portrayed a group of aging women with this crude caption: “You know you’re old when all your friends smell like urine.” I enjoy a good joke and love to laugh, but that one wasn’t worth a small chuckle.

 
 

I believe that every year past age 60 is a gift. My father died at 60, and my friend died from breast cancer at 59. I’ve lived more years than they did, and I want to make each year count. I want to enjoy more fun for them because they couldn’t. Funny cards are great but humiliating messages are not.

Although it’s tempting to send a sassy card to longtime friends, I’ve decided to concentrate on tailoring future greetings to fit the person. My friends know we’re probably not taking a cruise to some exotic location to celebrate the special day, but we can plan something festive that is more meaningful than a quick email.

Here are some suggestions for proper birthday salutations for those over age 60.

Send Positive Greetings

If you can’t find a good card, create a feisty, positive message that celebrates the annual recognition of a friend’s birth. This can range from, “Hooray! You’re one of my oldest friends!” to “So, you achieved another year of being fabulous!” What about, “How do you look so darned good?” I would appreciate receiving those letters. Include a photo of the two of you together or an inexpensive gift card.

Don’t Focus on the Negative

Stay positive and don’t elaborate health issues, family problems, or brighter days from the past. If your friend is past 60, she knows about those issues and prefers to focus on pleasant distractions and a better future. Personal visits and phone calls can be the best gifts to give. Borrow an old Rolodex tip and write down the names of your friend’s children and grandchildren. Invite her to talk about them. You could also ask her about her family history. We’re usually so busy, we really don’t know our friends.

Don’t Send Anything with Political Characters

If you want to irritate your friends, send those uncreative cards featuring politicians they don’t like. What’s the point?

Don’t Assume an Email Relieves You of Further Action

If you really care about the person, invite her or him to lunch or coffee. Prepare some homemade treats or suggest a concert, movie, or community event. Try something unusual and spontaneous. What about a gentle yoga class at a local fitness club followed by a soak in the hot tub? A class in painting, woodworking, writing, or photography could prompt a creative spark for your friend.

For one birthday gal, I copied family photos from her social media page and made a cute booklet. For another, I sent photos I took of her daughters’ weddings. If you go for a meal together, remember to order dessert, preferably with a candle and applause. Make it a true celebration.

Be Sensitive to Passing Time

Acknowledge that by age 60 you probably enjoyed more birthdays than you’ll have again (unless you live beyond age 120.) We don’t know how many celebrations are in our future, but this fact shouldn’t cause us to mope and exchange sad greetings. Reality reminds us to say “Happy Birthday” with conviction. Note the word “Happy.” If you or a friend are apprehensive about a pending birthday, take time to acknowledge the range of emotions. Then go eat a cake.

At my last birthday, an acquaintance gave me a card and large badge that said, “Over the Hill!” I responded in due fashion. “I am not over the hill,” I exclaimed. “I couldn’t climb a hill taller than a plate of cookies, even with sturdy tennis shoes and an industrial crane.” We laughed. Then I suggested we take a walk and go to lunch. Dessert would be on her.

How do you celebrate the birthday of a good friend? What was the best birthday card you ever received? How do you wish your friends Happy Birthday on Facebook? Please join the conversation below.

Elaine AmbroseElaine Ambrose is a #1 best-selling author of 10 books, including Midlife Happy Hour and Midlife Cabernet. She is the author of one of the most-read posts in the history of The Huffington Post, which was subsequently translated into six languages and published around the world. Ambrose, who lives in Eagle, Idaho, is the recipient of numerous awards, including awards from the Independent Publisher Book Awards (IPPY) and ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year Awards. Please visit her website at ElaineAmbrose.com.

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