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01/13/2015 09:53 am ET Updated Jan 13, 2015

The 7 Differences Between Being 55 And 65

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Ah, the difference 10 years makes. With apologies for the generalizations, here are seven differences we've noticed between being 55 and 65:

1. The R word changes.
At 55, you throw the word "reinvention" around a lot as you research how to turn your hobby into a money-making business. You hire business coaches and read stories about others who have successfully followed their passions and made millions (at least in their Facebook personas).

At 65, "retirement" is the R word most on your mind. You thank the Almighty that you still have a job even though you dream about the day that you won't need to rise to an alarm clock. And mostly you worry about keeping your job long enough to be able to afford not having one anymore.

2. The H word changes too.
At 55, we still think a lot about our personal happiness. Job satisfaction matters, so do our vacations, our stress levels and the quality of our lives. We spend a lot of time chasing work-life balance and wring our hands over the fact that we are connected to our devices 24/7 even though we know it's not good for us. Happiness is treated like something we are entitled to and our quest for it can sometimes steer the bus.

At 65, personal happiness takes a backseat and the H word becomes health. There is no greater currency to have as you enter your later years than to be in good health. While staying healthy at 55 frequently amounts to getting an annual physical and a flu shot, at 65, our body parts make us more aware of their presence. Reading glasses become bifocals. Ear wax buildup is replaced with actual hearing loss. Stairs, once a cornerstone of our gym routines, now make our knees ache. We visit doctors more frequently and have WebMD bookmarked. We know that in order to be happy, we first must be healthy.

3. Mr./Ms. Right looks different.
At 55, there is still a fair amount of attention paid to the packaging of our prospective partners. But those aspects of beauty that we place such a premium on are tough to maintain as we age. By 65, a lot of our focus shifts from appearance to character, where it probably should have been in the first place. Since science hasn't tracked the mating habits of those 65+ -- probably because no one thinks they have any -- we can only say anecdotally that at 65, we want best friends, teddy bears, cheerleaders, and kind, loving people in our lives. We actually stop noticing if their heads are bald, their tummies flabby or their faces wrinkled. And just think, it only took 65 years for us to finally become enlightened.

4. Intimacy vs. sex.
Let's just say this upfront: Sex feels good; OK, very good. At 55, many people are still thinking a lot about having good sex. People who are 55 spend a lot of time comparing their sex lives with others based on frequency, intensity, and duration. They also look for quantifiable measurements to compare the sex of their 50s to the sex of their 20s. It bothers them greatly to think that their children are having better sex than they are.

At 65, it isn't so much about having sex but being intimate. Yes, 65-year-olds still have sex; they just no longer keep a spreadsheet to chart it.

5. The bucket list changes.
At 55, going on an African safari feels like a do-or-die trip. At 65, many people are fine experiencing it on the Discovery Channel. You are more likely to see "Spend more time with the grandkids" on the bucket list of a 65-year-old than "lie naked on a beach in Mykonos surrounded by nubile young things."

It is not the death of adventure in our lives but rather a reordering of our priorities. Family and friends rank high and leaving your mark on the world matters a great deal more than going skydiving.

6. Attitudes toward Medicare and Social Security change too.
At 55, Medicare and Social Security are programs your parents are on. At 65, you email all your friends every time Congress tries to go near them -- the programs, not your parents.

7. What you read in the bathroom changes.
The newspaper long ago stopped following anyone into the bathroom, but it's not just news-delivery device that has changed. It's the content itself. If you are 55, you are likely reading this on your phone or tablet. If you are 65, more likely this has your attention.

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