Elder Life Crisis

The Other Side of 65

Which side of 65 are you on?

If you’re 64 or younger, come back on your 65th birthday. We’ll celebrate together.

If you’re 65 or older, welcome to your GOLDEN YEARS! Or Fool’s Gold Years as I like to call them. On your 65th birthday you entered Elder Life whether you were ready or not.

Just as some people experience a Midlife Crisis in their 40s or 50s, some people experience an Elder Life Crisis at 65 or after. The triggers for both crises have similarities as well as major differences.

A normal life span goes through three phases: youth, middle age, and… elder life. After that, we drop off the earth. Longevity is not guaranteed to anyone; some people never make it into middle age and others don’t make it to elder life.

To those of us who do live to 65 and beyond, longevity is a gift and a curse.

Each day we are allowed to stay on this earth is a priceless gift. None of us, regardless of our wealth, can buy more time. And there you have the root cause (or curse) of an Elder Life Crisis: the reality of the brief time we have left to live. How many days until we won’t wake up one morning? Will our last days be on our terms or will we be too helpless to live on our own? When is it time to start getting rid of our “stuff” so family or strangers aren’t left with the task of disposing of all that is precious to us but meaningless to them?

Here’s how thesaurus.com defines the term “golden years”:

Main Entry: old age

Definition: period of being elderly

Synonyms: advancing years, age, agedness, autumn of life, caducity, debility, declining years, decrepitude, dotage, elderliness, evening of life, feebleness, geriatrics, golden age, golden years, infirmity, latter part of animate life, longevity, oldness, retirement age, second childhood, senectitude, senescence, senility, seniority, winter of life, years

Antonyms: adolescence, childhood, infancy, youth

What part of “dotage,” “feebleness,” “senility,” and all the other synonyms for “golden years” wouldn’t push many sane men and women into Elder Life Crisis as they entered their Golden Years?

Reality Check… (Re)Defining The Golden Years

On our 65th birthday we walk through the door marked “The Golden Years” and regardless of whether or not we like what’s on the other side of that door, there’s no going back.

Don’t believe all the hype about how great “The Golden Years” are going to be. As goldminers know, all that sparkles is not what it appears. The closer you get to some things that appear golden, the more you see the gold isn’t real.

What’s so golden about an age in which you’re too old to work at jobs you’re qualified to do? Sure, a prospective employer can’t discriminate on age but put an unqualified youth and an over-the-hill dynamo up for the same position and youth will win out every time. I believe the usual excuse for not hiring the dynamo is that he or she is “over qualified.”

What’s so golden about an age that botox can’t help? An age when mirrors should be banned from every room in the home. An age when “age appropriate clothing” means below the knee, long-sleeved, and high-necked.

We have a new peer group focusing directly on us in the media: Tony Bennett, Betty White, Henry Winkler, Robert Wagner. They’re old like us and they’ve been enlisted to be our new best buddies, to help explain to us in simple terms how we’ll benefit by getting a reverse mortgage on our house, how we shouldn’t wait any longer to put aside some money for funeral expenses, how much we need to tap into our inner happiness while we are still mentally able.

Our mailbox is full of solicitations from AARP, the National Cremation Society, local funeral homes. We receive invitations to investment seminars for seniors, massive mailings about Medicare supplements.

You might enjoy spicy fiction but younger family members now think you need to read books such as Peace of Mind Planner: Important Information about My Belongings, Business Affairs, and Wishes, Get It Together: Organize Your Records So Your Family Won’t Have To and ABA/AARP Checklist for My Family: A Guide to My History, Financial Plans and Final Wishes.

Youth is the flavor of the day for products from fast cars to lipstick. Even wrinkle creams are pitched by botoxed women in their 20s and 30s. Teen girls with flawless skin worry about wrinkles.

But some products and services don’t do well with youthful models: incontinence pads, personal mobility vehicles, erectile disfunction products, hair transplant services, burial insurance.

There’s plenty of reason to be depressed about being “elderly,” particularly when just the day before, when we were 64, we were full of life, ready for anything. We had a future. A day later we were elderly. On paper. In the eyes of youth. Maybe in our own eyes.

Some people are able to make the transition without any noticeable problems. Some people aren’t. Personally, I have a problem with being thought of as elderly. I don’t feel elderly. I know what elderly looks like and it isn’t me. But I have reached a numerical age that defines me as elderly. All of us at 65 and higher are defined by that number regardless of our physical, mental, or emotional health.

It’s that undefined future that terrifies us.

It’s the bungee jumping 91-year-old great grandmother who inspires us.

About This Site

My name is Pat Gaudette and I am the founder of The Midlife Club. Midlife crisis is a game changer for many men and women when they enter middle age, around their 40th birthday. I established the Midlife Club in 1998 to provide support for people in crisis as well as those dealing with the crisis of a husband, wife, or significant other. Since that time, more than 100,000 people have registered for the forum and while most have transitioned through, a core group remains to provide support for newcomers to the site.

Recently, a young woman requested membership to the forum because she said her 65-year-old father was “having a midlife crisis” and she needed to know how to deal with it. She said he was stressed, snappy with his wife and family, and his erratic actions were causing problems within the family. When I declined her membership request and suggested she seek a forum that focused on aging issues, she insisted that everything written about midlife crisis fit her father’s actions.

This was my response:

I understand why you think of midlife crisis but at 65 he is now at an age where he is getting the senior discounts, Medicare, Social Security, AARP discounts and would be called “an elderly man” in the news. He may be stressed about facing the big void ahead. He may not see any future for himself. He needs to feel enthused about his current age but that’s not easy to do. He may feel useless.

If he could find a hobby or activity to get enthusiastic about, where he feels that he is making a contribution and his efforts are appreciated, his mood might get better.

Just my opinion but being elderly is a downer for many people.

After I sent that response, I searched for information that might have helped her and her father. What I found were sites about elder abuse in nursing homes and books for caregivers of elderly parents who were no longer able to care for themselves. Clearly, this didn’t fit her father’s situation. Nor did it fit the majority of people 65 and over who now have moved from middle age into the elder years.

So, this site is designed to provide information for those of us who, on our 65th birthday, moved from middle age into elder age.

While some people won’t have an issue with turning 65, others of us will. I did and continue to have problems with the definitions thrust upon anyone 65 and over. Middle age is just that… the middle of our life. I don’t like the reality of elder life being the last phase. But it is what it is and worrying about it won’t change anything, it just wastes whatever time we have left.

The Search for Elder Wisdom

My concept for this website… is to provide information that will be useful to men and women 65 and older.

There are sites that target “late-life” and “the elderly” but they are for caregivers, activists, special interest groups. They focus on such things as elder abuse in nursing homes, how to take care of elderly parents, etc.

This site is for those of us who are fully functioning adults who have, by being 65 or older, reached “elderly” status as defined by our age. Regardless of how active, healthy, and productive we are at 65 and beyond, people younger than us treat us differently solely because of our age. In the United States, our age is a liability.

I would like to post your stories of funny, happy, sad, frustrating times as you navigate this “elder life.” Maybe you’ve gone through a late-life divorce, maybe you’re dating for the first time in decades, maybe you’re struggling with health problems, weight issues, or body image problems. Let’s talk about it!

How about a section of “You Know You’re Elderly When…” stories?

Do you turn to the obituaries each morning and count how many people are younger than you? How many are your age?

When you walk past a mirror, who looks back at you? Or have you started avoiding mirrors as much as possible?

Do you plan long term or are you afraid that you won’t live long enough to finish any major projects?

Would you like to get a dog or cat but fear it will outlive you and might end up in an animal shelter, or worse?

We’re here. We need to focus on the positive. Sharing our fears and triumphs will help us stay the course.

If you have a story to share about anything, please email your comments.

Join me, won’t you, in helping to pave the way ahead for all of us. Let’s share our wisdom; we’ve worked hard for it.

Comments and questions are welcome. First person stories, helpful tips, and other information that might fit this site are also welcome. Please make sure that you provide a valid email address in case I need to contact you for more information. And for anyone who uses this site to send me spam… well, don’t expect a reply.

Wisdom from Lord deVere: The Golden Years