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70 Is the New Outspoken

Old is hot. Hot flashes. Hot topic.

In “Can We Live Longer but Stay Younger?” Adam Gopnik raises an interesting question: What if modern medicine and aging research could hold the clock steady on being middle aged, thereby allowing us to get older without growing old? Think of being 70 or even 80 without worrying about climbing a flight of stairs or apologizing for being forgetful.

In May, the New York Times published two articles about aging in the style section: “Vanity Is Not a Deadly Sin. It’s One of Life’s Last Vital Signs,” by Ruth La Ferla, and “We Made Gray Hair Even Prettier With Pastels,” by Crystal Martin. Both articles made growing old and going gray sound like an invitation to a dress-up party.

I’m all for getting older with a little style in my step. For the first time in my life, thanks to the miracle of double cataract surgery, I can see well enough without glasses to artfully apply eye shadow and draw on a smooth bit of eyeliner. And you better believe I intend to fancy on some makeup every day for the rest of my life. It looks great. Makes me feel a touch glamorous and, most importantly, well-armored to go out into the world and have my say. You see, getting older, is no longer the voice-silencing, invisibility-inducing sentence it used to be.

Seventy is about more than feeling and looking good.

Seventy is the new outspoken.

And it’s about time.

Seventy is a privilege. It’s a gift. It’s about time we embraced that gift and used our years of making mistakes while doing some things right to be something better, do something bigger, and live larger, as though we don’t have enough time left to do anything else.


Seventy is about more than feeling and looking good. Seventy is the new outspoken. And it’s about time.


You think being 70 is hard? Try being 18. Can you imagine? Have you ever known such chaos? Such uncertainty? The stock market is bobbling at every tweet and tariff. Unemployment is up, then it’s down. Getting a college education costs more than ever before, and many are left paying off student loans for decades after graduation, making it impossible to get ahead, buy a house, or start a family. There’s climate change riding the winds of terrifying hurricanes, tornados, and flooding rains. There are whispers of war here, there, everywhere. School shootings — and guns — don’t get me started.

Too much is happening for us to be silent, and those of us lucky enough to be 70 have the protection of age to speak up. It’s time for us to step up to the plate, be the elders, the wise ones, the ones who have lived long enough to speak truth to power.

It’s time to find new ways to “act your age.”

1. Be a mentor. Find someone who can use your expertise, your help. It won’t be hard. Have coffee with them. Talk. Listen; especially listen. Offer support, direction, whatever is needed. It’s that helping hand thing and it works. When was the last time you had a conversation? A real one that mattered? This is your chance.

2. Pick an issue. Dealer’s choice. The environment. Politics. School lunches. Classroom size. Money for the arts. Guns. Voting rights. Climate change. Transportation. Health care. Pick one; then, do something about it. Now.

3.  Find a new hobby. It doesn’t matter whether it’s baking cakes, planting a garden, building birdhouses, or writing poems. Share what you love with someone. That’s how we build stronger communities. Make new friends. Create a kinder world.

4. Take care of yourself. Exercise even if you have never exercised before. Exercise your body — and your voice. Be strong. Be focused. Raise a little hell. Have a little fun, and don’t ever think for a minute that there’s nothing you can do to change things.

You’re 70 or maybe 80 or — hallelujah! — 90!

You’re not old. You’re one of the warriors.

All those years of living have prepared you for this chance to make a difference. Step out, step up, and speak up!

You’ll be surprised who is waiting to hear what you have to say.

Carrie J. Knowles was the 2014 North Carolina Piedmont Laureate for Short Fiction. She has published three novels, a collection of short stories, and a memoir about the impact of Alzheimer’s on family members. Learn more at cjanework.com.

This article originally appeared on Psychology Today. It has been reprinted with permission.

Photo: Irina Polonina

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