Share this article

print logo

The Rev. Charles Lamb: I’ve discovered age is a relative thing

I just had my 80th birthday, and that set me to thinking about how one’s perspective on aging changes through the years.

When you are a kid, a 20-year-old is an old grown-up. He’s no fun. If he’s playing ball and you want to join, he’ll just tell you to get out of the way.

At 20, you knew 30-year-olds were in their middle age. In the 1960s, people said, “Never trust anyone over 30.” They were old; they weren’t “with it.”

But at 30, you were in your prime. After all, if mayors or congressmen are in their 30s, they are considered so young. It is different for football players; 30 years is the mark of an old man. But for the rest of us, we’re young!

It was those 40-year-olds who were middle aged. But when you got there, it wasn’t! After all, 50 is halfway to 100, so I guess that would be middle age. Some people make big changes in their 40s because they know they have lots of life ahead. You aren’t over the hill; you’re ready for new heights.

At 50 one might begrudgingly admit to being middle aged, but certainly not old. Old meant you were in your 60s – retiring, collecting Social Security, joining Medicare and talking about how many pills you take each day and which body parts hurt the most.

Surprise! At 60 you are just embarking on another whole era of life. Retired, free and ready to play! The term “old” certainly didn’t mean us! That meant those 70-year-olds.

After all, the Bible says, in Psalm 90:10, “The days of our life are 70 years, or perhaps 80 if we are strong …”

My Dad used to say everything over 70 was a bonus year.

But times have changed. The life span is getting longer. Doesn’t the Bible say that Methuselah lived to be 969? (Genesis 27)

No, 70 isn’t old anymore. After all, there’s Viagra. Somebody said 70 percent of the men need help and the other 30 percent won’t admit it.

But I’m 80 now. I have to admit that is getting pretty old, don’t I?

I remember when I was in my 20s, many of my friends were getting married. That’s what people did in their 20s.

Then in my 30s, they were becoming parents. Somebody was having a new kid every year. My wife always seemed to be going to another baby shower.

In my 40s and 50s, lots of people my age were having big promotions, becoming successful in their careers and bragging at class reunions. In my 60s, my friends were having retirement parties and planning for cruises and winter homes in Florida.

Now to find out what my friends are doing, I look in the obituaries.

But you know something? It occurred to me that when you have a birthday, it is the end of the year that you mark, not the beginning. When you are born, you live a whole year before turning 1. That means on the day of your birthday, you have finished your first year and are starting your second one.

Holy smoke! That means I’ve already finished my 80th year and I’m in year 81!

Hmm. So far it isn’t too bad. I’ll keep on going. I guess you have to be 90 to be old.

But even then I might have to rethink that. Lots of people aren’t old even at 100. And there’s always the challenge of the record set by Methuselah!