Preparing for Your Sweet Soixante

April 30th, 2011 © by Susan Swartz

I used to repeat the line about 60 being the new 50 or even 40. Sounded good to me. But now, well advanced into that decade, I believe that 60 is not the new 40. It is the new 60 if you work it right which is what I’ve been advising lately to my younger friends who are still in the 59-and-holding-on-for-dear-life club.

I am here to tell you little sisters the next decade has its rewards.

There is one clear benefit to turning 60 and that is you can stop worrying about getting older. You are there.

You may think of yourself as high middle age, and I’ll support you on that, but you’re already past senior in some people’s eyes. Like the kid at the box office who automatically rings you up for a $7 old person ticket. That’s okay. He might do the same to Helen Mirren and Diane Sawyer, both well into their 60s.

It always make me feel better, to check out my chronological mates. Punk rocker Patti Smith will be 65 this year – old enough for Medicare and a brand new author with an award-winning book.

Believe me one day you will look back at 59, and think what’s so old about that?

Lots of new things happen in the 60s. You start thinking about turning points. Like quitting the job. The R-word comes up. Time now to think of what you can look forward to when you have more time. Find a cello teacher. Investigate docent training at your favorite museum so you can get in free.

Hitting 60 is a good time to practice putting work in its place. The transition from a full time job to putting yourself first takes real adjustment. Take care of your friendships. In the 60s you start attending and planning a lot more memorial services. Be open to new friends, too. The kind who will go hiking with you when you stop going into the office every day. And who believe it is a sin to watch daytime TV.

Then there’s the body, which if it hasn’t already, will send out definite warning signs to pay attention. This is the time to care for your bones and brain. If you’re lucky enough to have a job with health insurance, get all skin things checked out. Do the bone scan. If you have vision insurance order a couple extra pairs of glasses, especially if they’re progressives. Complete all pricey dental work. Paying out of pocket is a shocker.

Find a gym or a walking buddy. Don’t neglect the cardio-vascular stuff. But don’t get too thin. After 59, skinny equals gaunt and saggy.

If you are fortunate to have a matching 401k, put away as much as you can. You’re never too old to get smart about money. There are powerful people who want to destroy Social Security and pensions and put older people on an ice floe. Well, at least the poor ones. Avoid becoming poor.

Depending on the above, start to prepare for the thrifty life. When you leave work you may have to give up some luxuries. This might be a good time to learn to cut your own hair. Or your dog’s. Or your husband’s.

Fill out those durable power of attorney forms. Make a will. Talk to your kids about what you want done if you get hit by a bus. Be selfish about what you read. You are not required to finish any book that bores you. Even for book club. I met an 84-year-old woman at the library who reads only non-fiction “because,” she said, “there’s so much more I need to know.”

Record all PIN numbers. Save your brain for other important information. Use the good china.

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4 Responses to “Preparing for Your Sweet Soixante”

  1. Marybeth bond Says:

    You touched on all the salient issues Of women our age, and with such humor and wit!
    Keep writing, we’re reading.
    Gutsy traveler marybeth

  2. Jacquelyn Says:

    Thanks for great advice, Susan. I’m hanging in there. :)

  3. Sara Peyton Says:

    Thanks for the great advice Susan. I’ll try to complete all the medical stuff before the big day! Cheers, Sara

  4. Sally Anderson Says:

    Thanks, Susan
    I turned 59 Thursday, and it hasn’t hurt a bit ! Went to Alamere Falls for the first time ever, the next day. Had heard about it and seen photos during the 30+ years I lived in West Marin, yet somehow had never “found the time” to hike out to see it in full-on spring glory. Wow. Fantastic sight (and sound). A grand beginning to my 60th year on planet Earth. Yippie!!!

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