Do whatever you want ‘at your age’

It’s been some time since I’ve told anyone my exact age.
Not that I’m embarrassed about it. How could you possibly be embarrassed about the length of time you’ve been on this planet!
It’s just a non-fact. It really doesn’t matter.
The reason I don’t want to share my age is because I can’t stand to hear one more person say “at your age.”
They’re surprised you can get down on the floor at your age. They advise you that you shouldn’t work so hard at your age. Or you shouldn’t drive at night at your age.
And especially—you should know better at your age.
Come to think about it, I never have been very good at doing the right thing at the right age. I walked at two and went to school at four. I entered high school at 11 and entered graduate school at 50. I got my first gray hair at 21 and voted for the first time at 40.
I learned to skate at 12 but never have learned to ski. I had my first date at 16 and got married at 27. I taught school at 18 and my oldest student was 14.
Between the ages of 30 and 58, I didn’t have a full-time job. Then I started a new career at 64 and I never plan to retire.
That’s my life plan. It’s different than anyone else’s and not a typical linear life plan—education, work, and retirement in sequence—but it worked for me.
In 1980, sociologist Fred Best predicted flexible life scheduling would be the wave of the future.
In his book, “Flexible Life Scheduling: Breaking the Education-Work-Retirement Lockstep,” Best says that it’s time to evaluate and reconsider the roles of learning, working, and playing in our lives.
The old way worked pretty well when we died at age 60 or 65. We went to school for 20 years. We worked for 40 years. And if we were lucky, we had a few years to enjoy life in retirement.
But the formula became obsolete when we began living to 80 or 90—or even to 100.
The problem is that no one really wants to work non-stop for 40 grinding years and then be without work for another 40 boring years. And few people can accumulate enough money for 40 years of retirement.
The truth is that pensions, Social Security, and savings don’t stretch, and many older people experience severe financial hardships.
It‘s time, Best says, “to increase non-work time during earlier stages of life and encourage more options for working past the age of 65.”
So what’s happened since Best introduced this revolutionary idea 20 years ago? Has anything really changed in the way people live their lives?
Yes and no. Today, more employers offer sabbatical opportunities. Some allow job sharing. And lifelong learning has gained many enthusiasts, with adults of all ages returning to college or participating in Elderhostels.
But many people are still trapped in the lifestyle Best defined as “the dehumanizing rigidity of the education-work-retirement lockstep.”
The three components—education, work, and leisure—are yours to arrange. Why not escape from the boxes of life today and do whatever you want “at your age.”
Marie Snider is an award-winning health care writer and syndicated columnist. Write her at thisside60@aol.com or visit www.visit-snider.com

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