More than twenty of us sang Happy Birthday to one of our younger members as she strode up the hill to meet us at the beginning of our walk. She turned 65 today. It struck me that we are getting on! And yet, as I looked around at a group of vibrant women (and one equally vibrant man) getting ready to step out and set their pace, I had to ask myself, “What does old age look like these days?”
I think the reason this is on my mind is that I’m reading Simone De Beauvoir’s book, Old Age, which she published when she was 62, about 15 years before she died. She outlined society’s view of the elderly (and at what age that occurs) based on archeological, anthropological and written records. From hunter-gatherer societies whose elderly were in their thirties, to medieval times when reaching fifty was a very old age, till the sixties when she wrote. It was uniformly bleak: physically, socially, financially, and intellectually.
Now actuarial tables predict that I will live to be 89. And our group looks forward to setting their own pace at least each Saturday, although most walk the distance at least a few more times each week. They do it for fitness and companionship and interest in one another’s busy lives. How wonderful to be able to enjoy these years with active, thoughtful, involved people! I truly feel that these are golden years! Too bad Simone didn’t live to see it.