When does ‘Middle Age’ end?

Published 9:28 am Thursday, June 18, 2015

A half century ago, when my age hadn’t reached double digits, my future life seemed to be measured by milestones. First was the age of 16, when I could legally drive. Then came 17, when I would graduate from high school (I turned 18 the next week).

Then, of course, came 21, when all sorts of wonderful things were legal including the right to vote. Next came milestones marking the decades; however, I paid them little heed. I was too busy to notice when I turned 30.

Jack Benny, who was perpetually 39, came to my mind when I turned 40, but he was just a joke — not a serious thing with me. Next came 50, when my baby AARP card arrived. Little else happened then so I took little notice.

Then the milestones started to come faster and faster. At 54, we entered a new millennium. At 59.5, I could begin to draw down my IRA without penalty. Age 62 brought Social Security followed at 65 by Medicare.

Somewhere after age 65, it dawned on me that there was only one more legal milestone for me. At 70.5, I must begin drawing down my IRA.

While I was thinking about that, another realization hit me: Age 80 comes just 10 years after 70. I know that sounds silly or stupid, depending on one’s kindness, but think about it. Until now I could rationalize that I was a young man until I was 30. From 30 to 60, I was middle aged. After all, I had read in a magazine that 60 is the new 40. I was OK with 60 because I was retired and enjoying the good life — my golden years (by the way, retirement really is great). However, at some point in a person’s life after age 60, it will dawn on that person that age 80 is just around the corner.

Now all the people in my life at age 80 have seemed old, except my dad. He was very unusual. I’ll never be able to match my dad. He started to jog at age 55. Every morning before dawn, he would jog out to the other side of Barron Lake and back to his house on the 700 block of Regent Street. Then he would shower and go to work.

On Thanksgiving mornings, he would jog to South Bend and back. Amazing, he would then eat a full Thanksgiving feast and not gain a pound! He got his pilot’s license at age 60. At age 75, he began to clean up two miles of Yankee Street by himself three times a year under the Adopt-a-Highway program.

If I measure myself against my dad, I am already an old man. There are no plans to learn how to fly. My treadmill never reaches jogging speed. When I walk 30 minutes a day, I am happy. However, optimistically, maybe I’ll inherit some of his capabilities. If I do, I could have another 20 years of the good life.

I guess maybe I could sum it up this way. My glass is no longer half full or half empty. It’s definitely more than half empty. No amount of happy talk can erase that.

I guess I can hope for the wisdom to accept old age and all the benefits of it. I can tell you one benefit I’ve already enjoyed. When I watch young people race around frantically chasing money, fame, or the opposite sex, I smile.

If I must explain that, you’re too young to understand.


Michael Waldron is a retired lieutenant colonel, U.S. Army, who was born and raised in Niles. He previously served on the Niles Community School Board of Education. He can be reached at ml.waldron@sbcglobal.net.