Thursday, February 5, 2015

Is 50 the new 30?

It’s become trendy in recent years to say things like “40 is the new 30”, “50 is the new 40”, or even “50 is the new 30”.

Fifty is not the new thirty, of course. Fifty comes with limitations that don’t concern most people at thirty. When I played racquetball at the age of 29, my knees never hurt me. When I play racquetball at my current age (46), my knees constantly remind me of their presence—and their age.

So 50 isn’t thirty. But it’s also true that fifty need not be what fifty was fifty years ago.

Medical care, etc. is several magnitudes better than it was in 1965. So all things being equal, a 50-year-old in 2015 is not near as close to death as a 50-year-old was in 1965. Today’s 50-year-old should (again, all things being equal) have several additional decades to play with. This is significant.

Moreover, societal expectations for 50-year-olds are also more flexible than they used to be. In 1965, a 50-year-old man was a grandpa, period. Today there 50-year-old bodybuilders and rock stars. (At the time of this writing, Mick Jagger, who still tours with the Rolling Stones, is 71.)

Longer life expectancies and more flexible societal expectations mean expanded opportunities for 50-year-olds.

No, this doesn't mean arbitrarily shaving off twenty years. It does mean that the decade after you turn 50 (or 40, or 60, or 70, for that matter) can be more dynamic and meaningful than it would have been in your grandparents’ time.

And that is worth thinking about.