What it’s like to be in the Seventh Decade of Life
December’s 2018 healthcare forum focuses on what it’s like to be in the seventh decade of life. We like to think of this stage of life as the new 50s.
Why are We Talking About Life in the 70s?
Many of us who are in our 70s tend to be introspective and want to share with younger family members and friends what we’ve learned, like the 16 “older” men and women we recently interviewed. A Greek philosopher was known to have said he liked “to talk with older men to learn whether the road ahead was rough or smooth.”
Who We Informally Interviewed for 1-1/2 Hours
Eight men and eight women in their 70s and early 80s who live in Denver and Santa Fe (the authors’ home cities).
Their views are very informative although the 16 were not representative of their entire age cohort.
Description of the Eight Men
Age 74; Caucasian; upper middle-class; all Democrats or Independents; five reported being happily married for the first or second time; men retired by age 67. Three men were either divorced or widowers but actively “looking” for a loving partner. Everyone was in relatively good health, exercise regularly, have yearly medical checkups, and use medications conservatively. Most were working part-time as paid consultants or volunteering at non-profits.
What We Learned About Four Aspects of Their Lives
In the interest of brevity, we begin with three major conclusions:
Those who have lived an active, productive life and enjoyed good health can look forward, with a bit of good luck, to continued good sense of self, productivity and overall life satisfaction.
Lifelong resilience to stressors encountered over one’s lifetime and the increased ability to cope with life’s “slings and arrows of outrageous misfortune” are the bedrocks that can support “healthy” living in the 7th and later decades.
Intimacy and a satisfying sexual life, given relatively good health and a loving partner, can continue into the later years as one of life’s many pleasures.
Degree of Life Satisfaction:
Eight men were pleased and satisfied with their active lifestyle – enjoyed the company of friends/family; contributed both time and/or money to charitable organizations; planned to leave a legacy to family and favored organizations; one man smiled when admitting that he was “spending his kid’s inheritance.” All were careful with their money to avoid outliving their resources; all but one traveled extensively.
The eight men we interviewed confirmed Masters and Johnson’s findings about sex into later years:
The five married men with healthy wives reported: satisfying sexual relationships several times monthly; one man smiled when admitting: “Everything takes a bit longer, but it’s time well-spent.” Most men explained that their affection over the past decade was expressed more by nightly cuddling; hugs/kissing during the day.
The three unmarried (but “looking”) men complained that eligible women in their 60s and 70s were cautious about intimacy, including sexual intimacy, because they had been “emotionally wounded,” had diminished sexual libido; self-conscientiousness about age-related bodily changes. Men held out hope for a long-term, committed relationship.
Only a few men remembered their dreams; they recorded them upon awaking. Major themes:
Conflicted events in their lives, often from decades long ago. One recalled a dream in which he felt humiliated when not selected for a promotion at his prestigious university.
Another dreamed it was his last day of being U.S. President, waiting to hand over the keys to the White House to incoming President-elect Obama. Obama offered some comforting words to the outgoing President (the dreamer). Returning to his home in Boston, the ex-president was mortified to see his beautiful home, filled with antiques, burned to the ground. When asked what the dream meant, he explained it reflected a diminished sense of importance in his current life, but also signified a sense of optimism and “new beginnings”.
Most reported the usual aches and pains; Everyone exercised at least three times a week. Several had successful joint replacements.
Most expressed frustration having to listen to their elderly friends complain about their health problems. All have supplemented insurance in addition to Medicare. Most perceived the health care system and their doctors as impersonal, uncaring and providing inadequate coordination. Several have changed to “boutique” doctors, despite the expense.
Although the men interviewed were quite exceptional, they present a very different picture than Shakespeare described about life in the sixties in his play, “As You Like It”:
The sixth age shifts into the lean and slippered pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side;
His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank, and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.
But let’s keep in mind that the life expectancy during the 16th century was only 35 years, largely because of high infant mortality.
For January’s healthcare forum, we’ll report on our interviews with the eight women whose lives, in many ways, complement those of our eight healthy men. We also gradually begin including summaries, in the form of key points, of each of the 14 chapters of our forthcoming book: Insider’s Guide to Quality Affordable Healthcare, a treasure trove of information, resources and seasoned advice on how to make America’s complex healthcare system work best for yourself, your family and friends. The book will be published next month by To Life and Health Publishing LLC and will be available at bookstores, on Amazon and other e-book sites.
Please send us questions about problems you are having obtaining quality health care and reducing out-of-pocket medical expenses. Confidentiality is assured. Send questions to our user-friendly website, QualityAffordableHealthcare.net.
Please join Dr. Larry Lazarus for an Author’s Talk at Op Cit Books in Santa Fe on Dec 29, 2018 at 2:00 pm. He’ll be discussing our forthcoming book: Insider’s Guide to Quality Affordable Healthcare.
We hope you and your family are having a wonderful and healthy holiday season.
Dr. Larry Lazarus and Dr. Jeff Foster