Reflections on Life: 5 Things I Have Learned by My 60s
Yes, the big SIX ZERO hits me on April 29. I remember freaking out at 30 but no so much with the other decades of 40 and 50.
I have mixed emotions on 60. Make no mistake, I have a blessed life – great wife, three kids, six grandkids, financial security. But as typical of this age, you start to look at legacy and contribution. And I grapple with what is success.
I’ll be straight up. My wife has been the breadwinner since we moved to North Carolina from New York some 15 years ago. I abandoned corporate life then for a purposeful life of helping organizations and individuals face aging issues not in crisis but with quality. So, I abandoned financial security for other pursuits.
My wife is amazing, smart and successful. She pursued a corporate life, is a born leader, and has prepared for aging more so than most. Who after all do you know that purchased long-term care insurance when she was 38?
Definitions of Success
She and I go back and forth with the definition of success. I look at her and it’s clear – super successful. If I gauge my success by financial metrics, well, I don’t measure up. And that’s when she reminds me of the great things that I have done and how many people I have impacted.
And that is comforting because for the ladies out there, while it may not seem so, the white male dominance of the Western world is over. The current U.S. administration is nothing but a last-gasp effort to hold on to that dominance. So that gives white men like me pause for reflection.
Yes, 99 point 99 percent of the time I am happy with my life. And at this point I have learned a few things. They are obvious but worth noting.
Your Health is Really Everything – Take Care of It
I thought for sure I would never make it to 50 because my dad passed at 49. Of course, he had leukemia at a time when few knew what to do about it. On the other hand, mom lived to 94.
I was at the spine doctor recently. I have scoliosis and my back has been giving me some fits. He examined me and basically said he would prescribe no medications or therapies or suggest surgery. He said I was my own best friend in this fight because of the way I keep myself physically fit. I took comfort in that.
Your Family is Everything – Stay Close
In my work, I see many families become estranged because of caregiving issues. The top blog on my own web site, which was written several years ago, has to do with reconnecting with estranged loved ones. It obviously struck a nerve. One study I came across presented at the 111th Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association (ASA) noted:
“We found that older individuals who had more family in their network, as well as older people who were closer with their family were less likely to die,” said James Iveniuk, the lead author of the study and a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health. “No such associations were observed for number of or closeness to friends.”
Social networks and friends are fantastic. But when the rubber hits the road, a close family trumps all.
Yes, Purpose is Important – Pursue It
I would have gone stir crazy if I had stayed in hospital marketing for my whole life. There was no clear purpose. When I discovered elders through singing, everything changed. Without laboring on it, watch this video of how I found my purpose. It is called the Story of Esther. Every time my lack of progress frustrates me in my advocacy or my finances, I am reminded by Esther that I am doing important work.
Gratefulness is Contagious – Practice It
I go to bed every night and think of three things that I am grateful for in life. Of all the traits I have observed about older adults I am around, gratefulness is one of the most dominant and is a reason people in long-term care places, which we associate with death, thrive.
Tenacity and Persistence Pays Off
If I had not gone in business for myself, I would have missed incredible opportunities like speaking and consulting in Dubai three times; speaking before thousands of people in various venues; becoming a TV media expert on aging. I’ve had to reinvent myself three times or so. But I believe in what I am doing. And to boast, I have been ahead of the marketplace in envisioning trends as well as starting them.
So, while it would be tempting to retire when my wife does later this year, I do not think my work is over. And if you are restless, your work may not be over either.
What life lessons have you learned now that you are in your 60s or better? How has your definition of success evolved over the years? Please join the conversation.
Anthony Cirillo is president of The Aging Experience. He helps organizations craft experiences and seize opportunities the mature marketplace. He helps family caregivers thrive and individuals make educated aging decisions. He is a consultant and professional speaker.