Check the rearview mirror to see where we’re going

If I didn’t look in the mirror every morning I’m not sure I would know how old I am.

By George Brown

I enter my sixth decade of life today and like everyone else who has turned 50, I wonder how it will change me. Or how you will see me.

Sure, it’s just a number; you’re only as old as you feel. Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter. Old age isn’t so bad when you consider the alternative.

I think I’ve heard them all in the last few days.

I don’t know whether 50 is the new 30. Or why society has a need to quicken the maturation of children through puberty and then try to turn back the clock as adults approach middle age. Whatever that is.

If I didn’t look in the mirror every morning I’m not sure I would know how old I am.

I noticed some time ago that I am older than most of the Mounties in our communities. A lot of school teachers too. When I was younger, pro athletes were rugged men and I used to call my favourite hockey players “Sir.” Today’s best hockey player is the same age as my son.

My greybeard and portly stature may have led some to believe that I passed this milestone some time ago. Increasingly I have been offered a senior citizen’s discount by young sales clerks too vain to wear their prescription eyewear. Just a few weeks ago I was taking pictures of a young girl at a petting zoo. The operator asked if she was my granddaughter. Ouch.

Although I continue to buy a copy of GQ magazine at the airport to read when I travel, I realized at my 40th birthday that I am no longer their target demographic. If I slowed down driving my truck I would find I am now an attractive prospect for Grey Power. Or I can take an advantage of other late night life insurance policy offers with no medical questions asked.

I read a few weeks ago that my elementary school principal died at age 85. I thought he was already dead. He was an old man the last time I saw him, in 1974. He was 50.

Sure, I’ve noticed a variety of physical changes over the years: I wear bifocals and my hearing isn’t what it used to be. I’ve got a few false teeth and my ankle has a handful of pins and screws holding it together. I’m obese, I snore and I have high blood pressure. Otherwise I’m fairly healthy for a man of my advanced years.

I don’t think I’m curmudgeonly. But I’m working at it. Being old, if that’s what I am, gives you the freedom and space to be yourself. No apologies. Can you avoid growing old by not growing up? I see that my mature friends continue to grow; their family, grandchildren and circle of friends challenge then, keeping them vibrant and useful.

No matter what age you are, you make mistakes and you’ll continue to make mistakes. I hope I am smart enough now not to make the same mistakes a third or fourth time. Mistakes are the building blocks of our experience, our wisdom. Hopefully I’m in a position to offer my experience in life and as a journalist to mentor young reporters — and not save these anecdotes for story time at the seniors lodge

The first 50 years of my life have been an adventure. Sure, some chapters would have been best deleted but they’re part of me now.

With age and the passage of five decades comes the opportunity for reflection. We can consider who we are today and take stock of the values and people who have molded us.

Maybe we can take a peek too and see where we’re headed.