Perspectives and Reflections on Age and Aging

When you were a kid, do you remember how a year seemed to last forever? Three months of summer vacation seemed “so long.” And most of us couldn’t wait until we got a little older. At some point, we got “big enough” so that we could stay home alone without a baby sitter. And most of us couldn’t wait to get older so we could drive, stay out late, turn 18 and then 21 when all the fun really began, or so we thought.

Gilbert Chemistry Set
Gilbert Chemistry Set from the 1960s. Photo courtesy of  Steve Karbelnig. All Rights Reserved

I know that at some point during adulthood, I began to realize that the years were starting to pile on even though in some respects I still felt like a kid. I began to wish that my birthdays weren’t coming around so quickly each year. (Of course, it beats the alternative). I remember freaking out a bit when I noticed my first gray hairs (which I promptly pulled out), and then I started noticing that lines were forming on my face. Yikes! I even tried dyeing my hair but then I felt conspicuously like a guy with dyed hair, paranoid that everyone would (and did) notice.

I find myself very conscious of the aging process. I carefully study my face for the presence of new lines, or the status of those I’ve had. I evaluate whether they are getting worse, or deeper. And I have spent fair amounts of money on face creams in hopes they will actually work to remove the lines and wrinkles, or make them smaller as the labels always promise they will. I work feverishly with a personal trainer in hopes of stopping or at least slowing down the sags in my body.  I notice my legs are starting to get that old appearance and that the marks and bruises on them last much longer or don’t seem to go away at all.

I also notice the aging process in my friends and family members. I notice how their appearance changes, how their faces wrinkle, the graying in their hair and beard, the wobble in their necks and wonder if they notice these things about me. I hope that the lighting I’m in hides some of my own aging side effects from those I am with. And I convince myself that I look much younger than my actual age since I tend to feel fairly youthful, at least most of the time.

I can clearly remember that as a kid, I thought that people in their 70s, 60s and even 50s were old. I’m one of the people that is categorized as a “Baby Boomer.” Baby boomers are the demographic group born during the post-World War II baby boom which occurred approximately between the years 1946 and 1964. So as of 2016, us Baby Boomers are presently between the ages 52 and 70 years old, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Now that some of us Baby Boomers have reached these ages, most of us realize that we are not as old as we thought we’d be once we got here.

As we age, our perspective on age changes. Looking back, during our lifetime, there have been certain historic events involving famous people who were considerably older than we were at the time that they occurred. You will recall that at the time, they seemed much older than we were – because they obviously were. Or so we thought. Now that we are in the ages ranging from about 52 to 70, or older, we can look back at the following events and notice how our perspectives have changed. You will find that all of these people were surprisingly quite young when these events happened. Take a look, see if you agree and let us know your thoughts.

John F. Kennedy (5/29/17), our 35th President, was only 46 when he was assassinated on November 22, 1963. He was only 43 years old when he was elected President of the United States in 1960. Today he would have been 99 years old.

Martin Luther King, Jr. (1/15/29) was only 39 years old when he was assassinated on April 4, 1968. He was only 35 years old when he was awarded the Nobel Peace Price on 10/14/64. He was only 34 years old when he delivered his “I have a Dream” speech on 8/28/63.  Today he would have been 87 years old.

Paul McCartney (6/18/42) was only 21 years old when the Beatles first played on the Ed Sullivan Show on February 9, 1964. This is believed to be the same year that he wrote his classic song, “Yesterday” (although it is credited to him and John Lennon). Today he is 74.

Beatles
Paul McCartney, John Lennon and the Beatles. Photo courtesy of Steve Karbelnig. All Rights Reserved

Ringo Starr (7/7/40) was only 23 years old when the Beatles first played on the Ed Sullivan Show on February 9, 1964. Today he is 76.

John Lennon (10/9/40) was only 23 years old when the Beatles first played on the Ed Sullivan Show on February 9, 1964. He was only 40 when he was killed on December 8, 1980. Today he would have been 76 years old.

George Harrison (2/25/43) was only 20 years old when the Beatles first played on the Ed Sullivan Show on February 9, 1964. He was only 58 when he died on November 29, 2001. Today he would have been 73 years old.

Brian Epstein (9/19/34), the Beatles manager was only 32 years old when he died on August 27, 2967. Today he would have been 82 years old.

Karen Carpenter (3/2/50) was only 32 years old when she died on February 4, 1983.  Today she would have been 65 years old.

Jim Morrison (12/8/43) of the Doors was only 27 when he died on July 3, 1971. Today he would have been 73 years old.

Janis Joplin (1/19/43) was only 27 when she died on October 4, 1970. Today she would have been 73 years old.

Jimi Hendrix (11/27/42) was only 27 when he died on September 18, 1970. Today he would have been 74 years old.

Mama Cass Elliot (9/19/41) of the Mamas and the Papas was only 32 when she died on July 29, 1974.  Today she would have been 75.

Robert F. (Bobby) Kennedy (11/20/25) was only 42 when he was assassinated on June 6, 1968. Today he would have been 90 years old.

Marilyn Monroe (6/1/26) was only 36 years old when she died on August 5, 1962. Today she would have been 90 years old.

Judy Garland (6/10/22) was only 47 when she died on June 22, 1969. She was just 16 years old when she played “Dorothy” in the movie, Wizard of Oz.  Today she would have been 94 years old.

Elvis Presley (1/8/35) was only 42 years old when he died on August 16, 1977. Today he would have been 81 years old.

James Dean (2/8/31) was only 24 years old when he died on September 30, 1955. The movie, Rebel Without a Cause, which made him a cultural icon, was released about a month later on October 27, 1955. Today he would have been 85 years old.

John Glenn (7/18/21), was only 40 years old when he became the first American astronaut to orbit the Earth aboard Friendship 7 (he was also one of the original Mercury 7 astronauts). On 1/16/98, at age 77, he became the oldest person ever to fly in space aboard Space Shuttle Discovery. He died on 12/8/16 at the age of 95.

Neil Armstrong (8/5/30) was only 38 years old when he became the first person ever to step foot on the moon on 7/21/69. He died on 8/25/12 at the age of 82.

Sunset from Griffith Observatory. Photo by Steve Karbelnig. All Rights Reserved.
Sunset from Griffith Observatory. Photo courtesy of  Steve Karbelnig. All Rights Reserved

Isn’t it interesting how our perspective changes when we see the ages of these historic figures? And yes, we are getting older, and hopefully it’s occurring gracefully. Our perspective about life also tends to change and improve over time along with gaining a little wisdom along the way as evidenced by our gray hairs – or at least I’m told.

Remember, “wrinkles should only indicate where smiles have been.” –Mark Twain.  “Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow.” The important thing is not to stop questioning.” – Albert Einstein.  “Take care of all your memories. For you cannot relive them.” – Bob Dylan.  And do not forget what we learned from the song in Disneyland’s Carousel of Progress: “There’s a great, big beautiful tomorrow, shining at the end of every day. There’s a great, big, beautiful tomorrow, and tomorrow’s just a dream away.”