My wife once read, in what I hope was not People magazine, that our bodies go through a major metabolic change about every seven years. I tend to believe that because, as I think about my own life, that schedule seems to fit. Those seven-year increments can generally be identified by, or associated with, songs, stories or books. Some stir memories, some act as a guide through a stage of life while others prepare us for the path to be traveled.
Birth to age seven is the time of lullabies and fairy tales teaching young minds about the world so full of new things. Sing-along songs and books teach the basics like numbers, animals, shapes and the alphabet.
By age seven most of us are no longer “babies” – at least no longer infants nor toddlers. This is the period most of us remember as our “childhood”. School books, coloring books, comic books and early television were our sources of learning and entertainment.
Around 14 years of age we are assaulted by puberty. Life becomes complicated and can be confusing as we stumble our way toward adulthood. My teen years can be relived hearing early rock and roll songs of the 50’s and 60’s about the drama of life; its highs and lows, of young love discovered or lost. Reading, especially the classics, provides some awareness and direction as we strive for a successful path through life, mostly through trial and error.
Twenty-one marks the beginning of adult life. Over the next 5 chunks of 7 years to about age 56, I married, finished college, began a career and had children. We were busy trying, to the best of our abilities, to live life to the fullest so can’t point to any one thing marking the era for us.
Sometime between the age of 28 and 56 we hit our physical peak. For me, the best I ever felt was at 35 years old. But the decline of physical and maybe mental prowess begins in this period. Initially it may go unnoticed as we slowly begin sliding off our peak while still high enough on the mountain of good health that we either do not notice or are not bothered by the changes.
Hitting 63 marks the Senior Citizen phase of life. Here we become more introspective and begin evaluating our lives and to grapple with our mortality. This stage can be characterized by Frank Sinatra reminiscing about phases of life in “It Was a Very Good Year” or by Harry Chapin’s “Cats in the Cradle”, wherein he decries a fathers regret about being too busy to have a relationship with his growing son.
Now in my 70’s I have lived through 10 these changes and have inarguably entered what are politely referred to as the “Golden Years”. Being at the beginning of this phase I have scant knowledge of what to expect. What changes are in my future? What can I do to prepare, to help me, as I go forward? Nothing comes to mind but, in some old files, I recently found a poem by an unknown sage. I saved it because, at the time I thought it was funny. Reading it now, with age-altered perceptions, it is too close to the truth to be as funny anymore. Still, maybe it can provide some modicum of guidance. Paraphrased, it reads:
The Golden Years have come at last
I’m no longer the man I was in the past
My hearing stinks; my memory shrinks
No hair no more; all my joints are sore
No sense of smell; and I look like hell
I cannot run; I must avoid the sun
I cannot chew; I cannot screw
I cannot see; I cannot pee
So, the Golden Years have come at last
Well… the Golden Years can kiss my ass!