Paul McCartney has done it, he’s hitting the big 6-4. Bully for Paul. I’m still ten years younger. And likely to remain so!
Amid all of the predictable commentaries on the man who made “When I’m Sixty-Four” a memorable lyric, there are a few worthwhile thoughts: youth and old age are states of mind as well as body — I know a few curmudgeonly 45-year-olds and many remarkably youthful and productive 70-year-olds. I think of Washingtonian Publisher Philip Merrill who, sadly, remains missing a week after his sailboat turned up empty on the Chesapeake. He was still sailing at age 72 and loving every turn of the wind. The accident was a tragedy, but the fact that he was out sailing was a powerful statement of his youthfulness and vigor at an age that used to be considered well past retirement. Philip was always so gracious to me and Trinity —I will miss him! And I will remember and hope to emulate his model of vigorous engagement with so many professional and recreational activities well into his 7th decade of life.
While many early Baby Boomers are now thinking about retirement, among my friends I most often hear not a desire to occupy a rocking chair on a porch, but rather, eager anticipation of having time, at long last, to undertake projects or to achieve goals long-deferred in the years when the priorities of young families and the workplace came first. Most want to keep working, but not for institutions or corporations — they want to work for themselves in the time-honored lingo of “consulting.” They want to set their own schedules, have more control of their time and the kind of work they choose to do.
Unfortunately, for too many older Americans, such control over their affairs is not possible — the later life stages are fraught with economic uncertainty and too much stress over inadequate health care. Just as the Boomer generation remade so many other dimensions of society, I hope we can bring our economic and political clout to bear on improving the conditions of life for the older population.
An even greater emphasis on education for second careers and retooling skills for new kinds of work will also characterize the aging Boomers. Lifelong learning is a key element of the future plans of many people contemplating the next stage of their intellectual lives. Here at Trinity, the average age of our students in the School of Professional Studies is 45, and we have students in their late 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. In the years to come, Trinity will develop more programs to appeal to older adults who now have the time and experience to enjoy and learn from great literature, art and music, philosophy and science, or those who want to start their own businesses or develop new technical skills.
Retired? Hardly! Our current and future students will be retooling their minds so as to enjoy an even more robust life in their later decades. Trinity will be there for them. And that’s what I fully expect to see going on at Trinity — when I’m eighty-four (the new 64)!