Springing Forward, or Gazing Back? Thoughts on Turning 70

Certain milestones tend to give us pause, bringing us to a fork in the road that leads us to not only decide which path to take next but to reflect back on those we’ve chosen that have brought us to this point. Whether and to whom we might marry. Whether to have children, and if so, how many. Whether and when to retire. What focus we want our work to take, or do we want to put work first or family first. Where to live as family becomes so more important when grandchildren come into the equation and we look to who will be there for us when we need it and how we choose to spend our time each day, as those days are numbered.

I’m finding myself at one of these defining moments in the coming week, as I approach what I like to refer to as a “signature birthday” – my 70th. And you don’t need me to tell you how vastly different the world is now from 70 years ago, when gas cost 15 cents per gallon, India and Pakistan were just becoming independent nations, and “Miracle on 34th Street” made its debut.

But other than being divisible by 10, turning 70 is noteworthy in its announcement to the world that, even though my appearance and activity level may somewhat deny it, chronologically, I’m stepping into a new decade of aging, reminding me that there are others my age already being cared for by their adult children. And although my own children currently aren’t paying the slightest bit of attention to my level of cognitive or physical functioning, and thankfully I’m not suffering from many infirmities of aging, I imagine it’s only a matter of time until they do. I wonder what that first trigger might be that leads them to consult with each other about me. Increasing lapses in memory? Frailty? Hoarding? (Ok, I do have a pretty vast collection of glass art…)

Until that time, whenever it may be, I’m reminding myself of fellow septuagenarians who aspired to their greatest achievements later in life. And I find that idea inspiring. Like Norman Maclean, who penned “A River Runs Through It” at age 74. Or the brilliance of contemporary artist James Turrell (see his work at Crystal Bridges and Cheekwood), known in art circles for his out-of-the-box creativity. And Ernestine Shepherd, recipient of the Guinness World Record for World’s Oldest Performing Female Bodybuilder, who, in her late 70s, set a regimented schedule for herself to include a 10-mile run at 4 a.m., a nearly 2-hour workout at the gym at 8 a.m., and training classes at the gym for the rest of the day and night.

As with all the other significant events I’ve encountered in life, one thing I know for certain: I’m going to learn something new as I forge confidently into my 70s. I’m going to try new things, experience life to its fullest, continue working to help create a better home care industry for all who may need it, and continue to love enthusiastically.

Pay attention, as I’ll be sure to share the lessons learned with you as, hopefully, I will continue to reach other milestones and pause to reflect back on this one.