Society's prevailing view seems to be that beyond a certain age men and women suddenly become uninteresting, unattractive and basically useless.
This perception is so widely held that most people don't give it a second thought. Consider how often we hear jokes about "senior moments," how seldom we see people over 50 in advertisements for anything other than retirement planning, or how frequently media reports on the aging population are punctuated by expressions such as "agequake" and "pension bomb."
When I started noticing this disturbing litany of messages, I was (in addition to being offended) curious. They certainly weren't describing me. At 53, I was enjoying a successful career. In fact, I felt as if I were only now really hitting my stride. I had accumulated a lifetime's worth of knowledge, skills and resources and would describe myself as being at the top of my game. Was I the only one feeling this way?
I did what I've always done when confronted by a problem or puzzle: I raised my antennae. I started passing my daily dose of media through a filter. Could I find examples of men and women who, like me, were continuing to work at midlife -- or later? People who had broken away from this depressing groupthink?
I soon found lots of newsmakers who were on my wavelength. In just one week, I collected items on boomers such as Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey, Meryl Streep and Al Franken -- each of them could have chosen to retire but all were still hard at work. In the same week, golfer Tom Watson, 59, nearly won the British Open (Tiger Woods did by a mere 15 strokes). I also started to notice people older than me who were still in the game. Men and women in their sixties (Joseph Biden, Helen Mirren), seventies (Jane Goodall, Warren Buffett), eighties (Christopher Plummer, Betty White), and nineties (I.M. Pei, Irving Penn).
Clearly, I wasn't alone. Encouraged, I began to talk to people in my circle -- friends and family, clients and colleagues, even my hairdresser. It was soon abundantly clear that boomers were asking themselves a single question, "What's next?" And that the answer for most of us would be "work."
As loyal readers know, in my last column I mentioned that I'm writing a new book called RIPE. Stay tuned for more about a powerful shift that's just beginning -- and for stories about people like us who are ripening.
And I'd love to hear from you. Does your experience parallel mine, and the famous people I've noted above? Do you know someone whose does? Share your story by commenting below, or visit my site to connect directly. I can't wait to begin this conversation with HuffPost readers -- and not just those over 50, as you'll soon see!
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