Yes, life can be rich but you’ve gotta know the new rules.

The 5 New Rules for Old(er) Years You Need to Know

Yes, life can be rich but you’ve gotta know the new rules.

Photo by Denise Jans on Unsplash

Maybe it was George Bernard Shaw who quipped, “Youth is wasted on the young.” In our 21st century culture, obsessed with bloom and vigor, youth is not really “wasted.” More to the point, youth doesn’t end, it goes dormant. It rises up like Phoenix from the ashes as sixty becomes the “new” forty and seventy the “new” fifty. We’re living in a Peter Pan time-warp.  

Surely the benefits of a vibrant lifestyle, cosmetic surgery, and over-the-counter “evidence-based” cosmetics help negate the arbitrary “use-by” date of 65. That’s when being “old” used to kick in. We know better now. 

You can still play but there are new rules in this chess game called life.

Wait, what? You didn’t get the memo? About the new rules? 

I’ll be damned. Life didn’t have the decency to send you a copy? Massive protests have been lodged over less. #newrules.

Well, here they are, then. No boring disclaimers. No Terms & Conditions. Depending on your settings, large print. Everything you need. 

The New Rules

Not all, but the important ones.

1. Get hearing aids before others notice you need them.

There is nothing worse than straining to hear at a restaurant or a noisy dinner party. I don’t mean hearing the conversation at the next table. I mean your own table. 

It’s hard to stay engaged with only a few well placed “excuse me’s” to conceal the fact you are catching every 7th word. Because ambient noise sucks! You’re left to follow the conversational ball without seeming like your lip reading. 

A thoughtful and kind spouse/partner will sit to your left. Or to your right. But strangers don’t know this. They sit where they please, across from you, or on your “bad” side. Now you’re screwed. You can’t hear well and it’s likely to interfere with the conversational dynamic. 

You’re not alone. Nearly ten percent of adults aged 55–64 have disabling hearing loss. It rises to 50 percent among adults 75 and older. Say what? 

There are a zillion snazzy, discreet hearing products that address this. Some are pricey, many aren’t. You can’t hear a damn thing. Huh? Yes, I know. Before the world knows it, too, be pro-active. Get it done. #newrules

2. Throw out every periodical that is more than 2 issues old. Be ruthless with catalogs.

Clutter is the enemy of aging. It confuses the organized mind. Keeping stacks of periodicals is borderline hoarding manifested on bedside tables. “We’ll get to it”, we say. But it’s a lie we tell ourselves. No, we probably won’t “get to it.” The next issue will fall through the mail slot and the old one will sit there, in the stack.

Really now, scout’s honor: How often do you riffle through old issues of a periodical? (This question does not apply to New Yorker subscriptions. Everyone who has a subscription to the New Yorker knows why.) 

Having come of age during the Great Print Edition era, reading “hard copy” is imprinted in our psyches. But in truth (most) every print subscription is complemented by free digital access. So you can always see online what you missed in print. Even in the New Yorker. #newrules

Catalogs are another source of endless clutter. Like periodicals, catalogs from everywhere tend to pile up. Which is unnecessary, given the ubiquity of online shopping. Tell me, how likely are you to return to the J.Jill catalog that came two weeks ago to order that blue sweater? That blue sweater is on their website. 

The rule for catalogs: give it a look and then give it a toss. #newrules

3. Keep your hair color from the 20th century. 

After all, whatever it is, is YOU. It’s your adult identity. Of all the physical attributes that change as the years go by, it’s one thing under your direct control. 

Going grey is not liberation theology. Far from it. Wrap your tresses around the fact that your natural color won’t necessarily free you from the financial burden/time/hassle of hair maintenance. 

Grey or silvery hair can be beautiful, to be sure. The muses may smile and grant you a rich, overall color. You may be blessed with an evenly distributed color, a dappled, elegant look, or a striking streak. But grey hair can have a different texture (e.g. coarser)and it can look dull, lusterless. There are ways to sustain attractive grey or silver hair, either DIY or with professional help. And yes, it’s a nod to vanity. I plead guilty, your honor.  

 Pro Tip. Test-drive the “go natural” plan with a visit to a good-quality wig shop. Approximate the color of whatever is hiding underneath the decades of hair dye. Take an honest friend along. Have smelling salts handy. Make sure to wear your normal make-up. Wear your favorite color to see how it works with the “new you.” If no wig retailer is nearby, invest in an inexpensive online model. #newrules

4. Get the vaccines you thought you didn’t need. 

Why? Because you are so healthy, have such stamina. Because you are so resilient; because you “never” get sick. Well, of course, that’s all true, until it’s not. It is an unequivocal fact that one’s immune system weakens as the years go by. (CDC recommends those 60+ guarding against flu, shingles, and pneumonia. Don’t let hubris get in the way of sound judgment. I’m evangelistic on this having lived through a nasty bout of shingles. I didn’t think I needed the vaccine. I was down for two months and coming back slowly. #newrules.

5. Go someplace you’ve never been at least once per year. 

Travel as often as your budget allows, revisit all your old haunts. But positively go someplace new. The spirit of exploration is a gift; don’t let yours wither. It’s so easy to find comfort in the familiar. But discovery is refreshing; it feeds the body and soul. Not to mention supplying you with the admiration of friends and family for “taking it on.” Hey, that’s just what you do. #newrules

Bonus: Throw out all of your underwear every year.

In the unforeseeable future, do you really want your daughter-in-law sorting it out (while wearing disposable gloves)? Think about it. #newrules

The Upshot

Accept what life offers you and try to drink from every cup. All wines should be tasted; some should only be sipped, but with others, drink the whole bottle.
Paulo Coelho, #newrules

A pan-curious writer and traveler, reflecting on a life well-lived. Women 60+, let’s do this!
A pan-curious writer and traveler, reflecting on a life well-lived. Women 60+, let’s do this!

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