I reached a milestone birthday in 2022 and, coincidentally, attended a high school reunion of friends and acquaintances, many of whom also turned 7-0 last year. The lead-in to the occasion didn’t trouble me — until I noticed birthday greetings mentioned a new descriptor: septuagenarian. No one called me a quinquagenarian (aged between 50 and 59) or a sexagenarian (between 60 and 69) when I entered those decades. Society seems to assert something major is up with this age.
It’s true our older chronological age — the number of years since our birth — comes with certain risk factors. But now we’re told to consider our biological age, also known as physiological or functional age. It takes into account additional factors such as genetics, lifestyle, nutrition and diseases to determine how old, or young, our body acts. And while we cannot control our genetics, following the guidelines for good health can reduce our biological age.
After turning 70, we shouldn’t feel pressure to reinvent ourselves, to become extraordinary, to look fantastic. We don’t need to deny the reality of our chronological age. But we might want to pay attention to how biological aging affects not only lifespan but also healthspan. “Lifespan is the total number of years we live whereas healthspan is how many of those years we remain healthy and free from disease.” To promote our healthspan, studies recommend “maintaining a healthy balanced diet with moderate, regular exercise and without smoking and drinking alcohol,” plus engaging in social and intellectual activities.
My Irish twin brother, who turned 70 less than a year before me, gave me a formula for this milestone: Rick made mental notes of things he was doing for the first time — as a 70-year-old, from the mundane (brushing his teeth, tying his shoelaces) to the pleasurable (playing golf, going for dinner at British Columbia’s oldest pub). Because Library Giving Day coincided with my birthday, I signed on as a monthly donor to the VPL to show my huge appreciation of public libraries. I also walked a long distance to a restaurant with a spectacular view of Vancouver, home to Glen and me for ten years in 2022. This year I look forward to strolling along English Bay for the first time — as a 71-year-old.
I haven’t set a chronological age I hope to celebrate. I don’t aspire to become a nonagenarian or a centenarian and thus surpass the average life expectancy (83.9 years) of my demographic. Rather, I try my utmost to embrace the profound advice of Mark Twain (1835-1910): “Give every day the chance to become the most beautiful day of your life.” •