Get ready for the changes at 50

By FRANK KAISER, Special to the Times
Published February 27, 2007

Listen up, all you youngsters about to hit 50. That's the official beginning of seniordom, according to no less an authority than the AARP, and it's high time someone took pity on you.

You are already a member of the baby boomer generation - the estimated 78-million Americans born between 1946 and 1964. And you may need a clue to the surprises lurking right around the corner.

I know. I know: You've done everything possible to avoid the big 5-0. At the mere mention of "golden" or "silver," you change the subject. Hear the word "retirement" and you quickly cross your index fingers in front of you, deflecting any notion of evil ages ahead.

Most boomers - not you, of course - are so inwardly turned, that when geezerdom does come to call, they freak. They become more adamant about their false sense of self-reliance, their enthusiastic embrace of all things youthful.

If it were up to me, you'd never earn geezer status. We don't want you. You're not tough enough.

But since it's inevitable, here's a sneak preview of what to expect:

For starters, time and date take on new and bewildering significance. A co-worker's 15th high school reunion inexplicably starts your fingers twitching as you mentally count backward to 1992, then subtract the year of your own graduation.

Oh my God! you think. I'm 17 years older than she is. I don't look . . . Do I? She could be my daughter!

At age 50 or so, you'll begin noticing that younger folks of either sex now look right through you - as if you didn't exist.

At about 55, you'll catch yourself glancing in mirrors to assess the growth of your wattles - that skin under your jaw that even now may be sagging a bit.

But still you won't bring yourself to use the words "old" and "me" in the same sentence.

Next, you become - how shall I put this? - irrelevant.

Suddenly, you're the fifth wheel at work, out of the loop more often than not. Your advice is no longer sought.

This is when you start pricing face lifts, eyelid surgery, hair transplants, wattle reduction.

And then there's that matter of forgetfulness. Senior moments, we call them. Those sudden, humiliating mind blanks during which we can't remember the names of our close friends, maybe even close relatives.

You get used to this.

Fact is, we seniors know a lot; we simply can't remember it all.

One more little surprise: You may think that "old folks" talk 24/7 about their aches and pains, their doctors, pills and operations.

Trust me, you will too. At 50, you're already too old to benefit much from current breakthroughs. By the time they trickle down, you'll be long gone. Sorry.

I suppose that you won't believe me if I tell you that in spite of all this, you may find your senior years your best ever.

You'll find new freedom to do what you want and say what you think. You'll have time to develop hobbies, improve your golf and tennis, and read to your heart's content.

Once you get away from that "me" thing, you'll want to help others by volunteering your time and mind. You'll never believe the rewards until you do it.

And you'll learn the critical importance of friendship and love in your life. That alone is worth the price each of us pays to become a Geezer-First Class.

Frank Kaiser is a nationally syndicated columnist who lives in Clearwater. His Web site, www.suddenlysenior.com, includes nostalgia and links to senior sites. Contact him at frank@suddenlysenior.com or by writing to 2431 Canadian Way, Suite 21, Clearwater, FL 33763.