This is my last day of being 74 years old. Tomorrow I turn 75. Wow! It’s hard to believe that I lived this long. It’s interesting that most of my classmates from W-L High School, Class of ‘57 are still around too, and they are, in most cases, a year older than I am. This is an era of people living longer. Maybe we are the last generation to actually take care of ourselves, having been brought up with real food, and with synthetic foods just beginning to show up as we moved through our teens and into maturity. We were starting to use “oleo margarine” with my mother having to knead the bag to combine the colors and the mixture. “TV Dinners” were just starting to be sold. We all ate at the dining room table, even on Sundays, when the Redskins games were on TV in the late 1950s.
I ate a lot of sugar and white bread. But sugar wasn’t buried in everything. It was usually real sugar and we knew when we were eating it. We ate a lot of meat. We had a “green grocer” who drove an old bus and came down the street weekly with fresh produce. The milkman delivered milk a couple of times a week and you could specify “regular” or “homogenized”. Milk bottles were glass and were picked up by the milkman to be cleaned and used again.
We were just starting to watch TV, but it wasn’t on from dawn to bedtime, and we still moved around a lot, getting a fair amount of basic exercise as a part of growing up.
I have watched so many changes and improvements in lifestyle as I have gone through those 74 years. Technology has resulted in exponential improvements in medical care, product distribution, communications and other facets of living life. I’ve lived through 13 Presidents, a bunch of wars and a “Police Action” in Korea where we started the “losing” trend. I flew helicopters with the Marine Corps in Viet Nam, another losing adventure. We now have another generation of military actions in the Middle East with an all voluntary military, who are doing a magnificent job, but limited by what many think is very poor leadership and direction from home, true of Korea and Viet Nam too.
The population of the world stands at 7.2 billion now, up from 2.2 billion at the beginning of World War II. Because of technology, we are able to feed anyone who really wants to be fed. While I will get arguments over this, the food supply is in place, the distribution and the logistics are improving. We have lived through droughts and excessive moisture. Just a few years ago we were warned of the catastrophe that was coming because of global cooling, the new ice age was just around the corner. Today, just a few years later, suddenly the planet is warming and humans are responsible. We are forgetting the eons that the world has been in existence and that this planet has transformed many times. One has only to look at the difference in the ages of the ancient Appalachian mountains in the East and the relatively young Rocky Mountains in the West, to see the changes in the Earth’s make up, as it ages.
While sometimes I long for the “good old days”, I think that we are living in an incredible age. We are living in an era of fast moving technological growth that makes living easier and usually better. We are also learning more and more about the capabilities of the human body and mind. We are rediscovering the power of the mind to heal and to help the body adapt. We are learning that much of what is done with pills, can also be done with the mind, if we know what we are doing — and we are learning.
We are learning that as a people, we have the ability to live longer, healthier and productive lives, long after we pass the “retirement” age, and that people our age are capable of doing far more than the generations of the past. Technology helps, but we seem to be developing an “attitude of longevity” that is growing in many of us. We know the basics of what we need to do to live longer and many of us are making the effort to do it. We are beginning to realize that we need to move our bodies and eat healthfully, and if we do, our chances of living better are significantly improved.
I’m looking forward to the rest of my life. My wife is just a kid. She turns 70 in June. She looks good and feels good and we enjoy each other. My father was gone at age 71; my mother at 69. My wife’s father left us at age 77 and my wife’s mother hung in there until age 91. Our genes are all over the place. But because of medical technology, new knowledge of the human mind, exercise and eating well (mostly), we are both active and healthy and hope to fully enjoy the next 20 or 25 years and maybe even more.
I’m a little bit older tomorrow, but also a little bit better. I wish the best for all you older adults reading this and I hope your attitude is as positive as mine is about what lies ahead.
Thank you for reading.