I always thought people in their 50s were old. Now that I am in my late 50s, I realize how wrong I was. Like me, most people in their 50s don't feel old at all. True, we are older than some, but does that make us old? I don't think so.
Life after 50 represents a new stage in our lives, which comes with many changes. Although these changes can happen at different points in our lives, they occur more frequently for those over 50. We may see changes to our hair, eyes, skin, strength, and health. Our families change too as our children grow and start or finish college, start careers, move out, get married, and some even have children of their own. At the same time, we may begin caring for aging parents or losing one or both of our parents. Despite all of the changes, most people over 50 do not look at themselves as old. In fact, in our 50s, we also gain a new perspective on life, become more settled, and have greater self-acceptance. This increased sense of self paves the way for us to focus more on our relationships and pursue how we want to spend our time.
I know how my views on life have changed in my 50s, and I wondered if others felt the same. So I reached out to a group of friends and asked them to describe what being over 50 was like for them. I asked when they realized they were older and how being over 50 changed their perspective on life.
Realizing We are a Little Older
Although most everyone I spoke to doesn't feel old, the realization of getting a little older did happen because of changes to both family members and friends. The most common experience mentioned about feeling older happened after losing one or both parents. Other comments showed how we see our age in terms of those around us:
"I had to be the 'parent' to my father." - Toni
"My kids started having kids." - Paula
"Some of my friends moved into 55+ communities." - Merri
Even with changes and challenges, most of my friends don't feel old, and even more interestingly, very few spoke about physical changes or slowing down. Most found that starting in their 50s, they feel more settled, wiser, and more appreciative of good things. Almost everyone mentioned having a new perspective, a sense of happiness, and feeling settled. Overall, even with some challenges, being over 50 can be a wonderful time in life.
Changes in Perspective on Life
How does our perspective change after 50? Almost unanimously, people made a point of saying they no longer cared what other people thought of them. Very few people over 50 are willing to put up with (or at least limit seeing) toxic or high maintenance friends and family. For nearly everyone, it is more important to spend time with people they enjoy and doing things they love. It seems everyone is adamant about living life on their terms and, at the same time, feel an increased sense of appreciation and empathy.
What was interesting for me was to see how so many of us look at things the same way. We all come from different backgrounds, live in different places, and have had very different life experiences, yet, we are very alike in our perspective on life and aging.
Here are some of the other specific thoughts they shared about appreciation, compassion, and living life on their terms now that they are 50 and older:
"It made me appreciate what is most important: good health, family, friends, and community." - Merri
"I have come to a greater appreciation for my siblings and extended family." - Amy P.
"That living in the present and planning for the future are not mutually exclusive." - Jeanne
"I have learned to help others when needed, accept help from others when needed and just say thank you." - Paula
"I want to do all I can and live life to the fullest because I realize how short life is. - Amy B.
"There are still things I can do to change the world." - Helaine
Embracing A New Opportunity to Design Our Future
One of the most important things for almost everyone I spoke to about getting older is how we feel about ourselves and how we spend our time. We are at a point where we want to discard the things that no longer add value and make room for the things that genuinely make us happy.
Life over 50 marks the beginning of a new opportunity to embrace and design our future using our experience, knowledge, and perspective.
(Photo credits: Pixabay)