I received in the mail yesterday a temporary enrollment card to AARP — American Association of Retired Persons. That wouldn’t be such a big thing except for one thing: my 50th birthday isn’t for 18 years.
I’m boggled. My husband says that AARP got my name from my defunct KERA-PBS membership since, as he says, only old people contribute to KERA. Right. Oversimplifications notwithstanding, I still find it hilarious that I ended up on AARP’s mailing list. What next — discounted offers for Ensure and Centrum Silver?
But the thing is, 50 isn’t that old anymore. My father just turned 61 yesterday, and I consider him a lively late middle-aged man — secure and happy in his household, energized in his job, and happily married to a woman who finds him both infuriating and loving. If the early 60s looks like my father, then that’s not old age. As the human population gets older and older, the desire to extend that life and, at the same time, make that quality of life fruitful makes for great strides in technological advances, both in preventative medicine and diagnosis and treatment.
In 2004, I will be 32 (unofficially in a few days, officially in a couple of months — long story). The time period of childhood and adolescence has expanded from the teens into the 20s, and, based on housing trends among people in their late 20s and early 30s, perhaps we ought to revamp the phrase “young adulthood” to acknowledge this de facto expansion of adult children still living in their parents’ house with the slow but steady erosion of the stigma those children carry for still living in their parents’ (or, for some, grandparents’) house.
If early childhood is accepted as ending before puberty, adolescence as ending around the early 20s (post-college, post-first job, or post-first tour of service), and young adulthood ending sometime around the magic number “30,” (or when their kids start to arrive) then adulthood, always longer than the previous periods, is a long journey in which “50” perhaps becomes the midpoint (kids finally out of the house, even if that just means college) and what we call “old” age is around 70 or so, lasting for as long as the body, mind, and spirit can hold together, hopefully to 100.
In the 21st century, such a lifespan seems reasonable to me (even with my unreasonable desire to live many many decades past that magic number “100”). As long as one maintains one’s body on a daily basis, keeps the mind lively by always learning, has a good attitude about life in general (having a strong belief system that one likes and helps that person deal with life is the usual example of that), and has good access to healthcare, then, barring accidents or getting murdered, the typical human being should live for a very long time indeed.
Sure, I believe there’s a Heaven when I die — but I’m not in any hurry to get there.