Turning seventy

Anonymous-Age 70

I found the run-up to my 70th birthday quite sobering. Mild ailments that I customarily ignored seemed to portend serious conditions. Feeling sleepy suddenly seemed age-related. Thinking about purchasing clothing or household items made me wonder whether this was the last time I would be buying a new coat/blanket/tea kettle. Now that my birthday has passed, things seem to be returning to normal – thank goodness!

The emotion that I find most helpful at this age is gratitude. I am grateful for good health, for the choices I have, for my family, for my friends, and for living in a place where I feel safe and free. When one feels grateful, it is impossible to feel angry. This realization has made a huge difference in my life. I try to turn anger around to gratitude – whether it’s a disappointment, a frustration, or a sadness that is triggering the potential for anger, I try to think instead about something in that vein for which I can be grateful. Waiting in a line? I’m grateful that I have my iphone to occupy me and take my mind off the “wasted” time. Time is never wasted when you have an iphone! Disappointment that one of my kids did something of which I disapprove? I’m grateful that they are their own people, with their own lives, making their own mistakes and successes, and that they are responsible for themselves. Of course, I lapse….I am human! But this paradigm shift h as really helped me to let go of things I used to want to control, and to relax about being of an age where I am not expected to control a lot.

Of course, I sometimes feel marginalized. I feel invisible in some situations. Our generation is on the fringes now. I don’t understand a lot of today’s culture, technology, or humor. But it’s okay – I have more time to process and enjoy the people and activities that bring me pleasure or challenge me in good ways. I’m ready to let it go and seek new ways to feel productive.

Giving myself permission not to be productive every minute of every day has been a huge freedom. It’s okay to read in the middle of the day. I can spend an hour walking somewhere instead of finding the most efficient way to get from point A to point B. I can talk on the phone to a friend and not worry about what I’m not doing…….most of the time!

It’s a work in progress, this evolution to being a retired 70-year-old. But it is progress! And I’m feeling so grateful to have the opportunity to do it.

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One Response to Turning seventy

  1. Jane says:


    July 3, 2010, my birth day; my day. All fireworks that will ensue are tributes to me on this occasion..they always have meant that to me. I remember birthday parties at summer camp with red, white and blue crepe paper streamers and hats…fireworks over the lake, singing, celebration, camaraderie.

    But this one is bigger than the rest. Turning 70 feels awesome, somehow daunting, unbelievable . My mother said at 60, “You feel like the same person you always were.” She was right, I do. I don’t feel old or elderly. Remember how old 70 year-olds used to seem?

    But this does seem like a landmark. Not the end of anything, but the beginning of the next era. I feel a bit of dread as I think about body parts deteriorating, mental powers diminishing. Memory fading, independence encroached upon.

    Some anticipatory anxiety…my usual MO. Tears in front of the mirror at the beauty salon. Kind words of support from my beautician. She restores me to youthful color each month, and I feel renewed when she has finished applying her art.

    I know, everyone says I “don’t look 70.” I have continued to exercise my mind and my body…the Sunday New York Times crossword puzzles, exercise classes several times a week, young friends, time with grandchildren, work that keeps me energized and rewarded, generally sensible eating habits. All these things seem to be keeping me buoyed and in good health. What is 70 supposed to look like? Is it the new 50?…60? Different for each person, I guess.

    Part of my sadness has to do with the fact that my parents both died in their seventies. I’d hate to believe that I only had a short time left in this world. There is so much more to do and see and enjoy. I want to be here as our grandchildren mature and reach important landmarks in their lives.

    Yes, I am currently healthier than my parents were at 70. Perhaps that will allow me more years than they had. What is ahead? I wonder.

    Then, a surprise 70th birthday bash with family and friends…a wonderful dinner followed by fireworks. The first birthday I have not shared with grandma whose birthday is near mine. Just for me. It felt good to be celebrated by people I care about. A warm-hearted evening; an archival memory.

    And the day after…just another day, not unlike those recently passed. No sudden changes—Life goes on…gradually.

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