I’ve heard this phrase many times, but I’ve never really paid all that much attention to it (or to variations on the same theme, e.g., ‘Forty is the new 30’, ‘Thirty is the new 20’, etc.) until I heard my doctor say it.
When I went in for my annual physical earlier this year, the doctor took note of my birth year (1953) and immediately said, “Well, not to worry – sixty is the new forty”. I sat, a little dumbfounded, for a few moments before I asked, “What exactly does that mean?” He explained (I’m paraphrasing here) that (generally) people today don’t look or feel as old as someone of the same age did a generation or two ago. We tend to take better care of ourselves than our parents and grandparents did – we exercise more, eat healthier, engage in more social activities, have more fulfilling careers, better understand the importance of keeping our minds and bodies active and engaged. We also have access to better medical care, and there have been incredible advances in science and technology that have given rise to products and services that can help us look and feel younger than we are.
I knew he wasn’t just talking about all those ‘anti-aging products’ you see advertised on TV and in women’s magazines (which do not, by the way, actually prevent or slow down the aging process; they merely ‘reduce the appearance of’ [i.e., disguise] its effects) – he was talking about our whole approach to living, and how it’s impacting generational life spans (which has massive repercussions with respect to global population growth … but that’s another topic for another post).
I read an article not long ago that said a Canadian woman in the 1920s had a life expectancy of 61 years, whereas today we can anticipate making it to 83. To put that into perspective, a 40 year old woman today would be the same relative age as a woman of 30 in the 1920s (which means the statement, ‘Forty is the new 30’ is pretty darn accurate and ‘Sixty is the new 40’ isn’t far off [the math suggests it’s closer to 43.5, but who’s going to quibble over a few years at our age, right?])
According to a new book (“The Long and the Short of it: The Science of Life Span and Aging” by Jonathan Silverman) the human life span has increased 15 minutes every hour for the past 170 odd years (for a total gain of almost 40 years since 1840 – about 7 ½ generations). According to Silverman’s research, the average woman born in Sweden in 1840 (where he conducted his studies) lived to be 45; a girl born there today can expect to live to 84. The math behind those stats suggests that each generation will live about five years longer than the previous one (I once read that each generation could expect to live three years longer than the one before it, but Silverman has certainly done his homework, so let’s assume – for the moment – that he’s right). If you know the (approximate) ages that your parents and/or grandparents and/or great-grandparents died, you might discover (as I did) that you have the (statistical) potential to live to a very ripe old age (my mother was two weeks shy of her 94th birthday when she died in 2012; her mother was 94 when she died in 1980; my father’s mother was 90.5 when she died in 1967; therefore, it is conceivable that I could hit the big 1-0-0 if I take care of myself).
Of course, none of this really matters if you’ve stopped counting the years altogether, or if you refuse to take care of yourself, or if don’t give a fig about how many more years you might have left on this plane of existence. Or you might be one of those people who only thinks about how you feel on the inside (vs. how you look on the outside). One of the best ‘quotes’ I ever read about the getting past the ‘angst’ of aging was this: “How old would you say you were if you didn’t know how old you were?” (My answer? 35.)
When I look back at my life, I sometimes have a hard time believing I’m 60 already, and I wonder (often) “Where did the time go?” But time, like everything else (including aging) is relative, so even if ‘sixty is the new forty’, I’m just going to keep telling people that I’m on … the other side of 55.
Since I most take after my mother and her mother, I thought I’d put together a little generational glimpse into all three generations of women at 20 year intervals (20, 40, 60, 80) to see how we’ve adapted to ‘relative aging’.
In Our Twenties
Somewhere Close to 60
Around Halloween-time, I often get to thinking about all the rites and rituals and superstitions that people follow, and I sometimes wonder where they come from. So over the weekend I did a little digging and I thought I’d share the results with you.
Did you know that gullible is a synonym for superstitious (so are credulous, irrational and illogical)? Somehow I never equated being superstitious with being naive (a synonym for gullible), uncritical (a synonym for credulous), or unreasonable (a synonym for irrational). I don’t dispute the fact that some superstitions might be seen as illogical, foolish, crazy, ridiculous, absurd, or silly, but few are unfounded (they all have some sort of historical origin). Here, then, are some ‘superstitions’ (including their source) that I follow (for no other reason, really, than they are learned behaviours).
- Knocking on wood. When I want to prevent something bad from happening (usually after I’ve mentioned something positive), I knock on something wooden (and say ‘knock on wood’; e.g., “I haven’t gotten the flu yet this winter” Tap, tap, tap … “Knock on wood”). This superstition apparently comes from the druids of Great Britain who believed that spirits lived in trees. Whenever they spoke of the potential for good or bad fortune occurring, they would knock on a tree to ‘perk up’ the spirits so they’d work in their favour. Maybe next time, I’ll knock directly on a tree instead of my pressed plywood desk!
- Saying ‘God bless you’ when someone sneezes. This one goes back to Pope Gregory the Great (540 – 604 AD) who apparently said it to people who sneezed during the bubonic plague outbreak of the late sixth century (the first symptom of the plague was severe, chronic sneezing, usually followed by a quick death). And since it was believed that when someone sneezed, the soul escaped from the body and the heart momentarily stopped, saying “God bless you” was a way of welcoming the person back to life. To me, it’s just a natural, polite thing to say when someone near me sneezes.
- Unlucky 13/Friday the 13th. Personally, I’ve turned this one on its head. Ever since I got a perfect grade on a math test on a Friday the 13th back in Grade 5, I’ve always seen it as a lucky day. Still, there are some who believe that the number 13 is unlucky (despite there being absolutely no statistical evidence to prove it), and the 13th falling on a Friday as more so. This is apparently because there were 13 people at the Last Supper of Christ, and Judas Iscariot (Christ’s betrayer) was the 13th member of his close circle; Friday was the day Christ was crucified. In Spanish-speaking countries, Tuesday the 13th is considered a bad luck day, and the number 4 is considered unlucky in Japan, Korea and China (because it sounds like ‘death’ when pronounced). In most English-speaking countries, there is no 13th floor in apartment buildings or hotels; in the far east, floors with the number ’4′ in them (4, 14, 24, 34 …) are missing.
- Never walk under a ladder. I think I’ve always just considered this to be a dangerous endeavour, rather than superstitiously harmful. Still, its origin is interesting – murderers were hanged from the tops of ladders before gallows were invented; it was thought that their spirits (ghosts) remained at the bottom of the ladder and could ‘possess’ anyone who walked there. Creepy! I just don’t trust whoever is up on the ladder not to drop something on my head.
- Indications that you’re coming into money. There are several superstitions that apparently can predicti when you are going to come into money (or lose it). My maternal grandmother always looked into a cup of tea before drinking it – if bubbles had formed on the top, she’d excitedly exclaim that she was going to come into money. Other people believe in the ‘itchy palm’ theory – an itch on the right palm means you’ll have a windfall; an itch on the left is money going out the window (if both palms itch at the same time, you’ve got a lot of good luck coming your way). I’ll have to pay more attention to my palms the next time I buy a lottery ticket (I always check my tea for bubbles!)
- Never open an umbrella indoors. Again, I always thought this was more a matter of safety than superstition (I can hear my mother’s admonishments that you’d poke someone’s eye out or break something if you opened your umbrella inside). However, the superstition that ‘bad luck will rain on you’ if you open an umbrella indoors comes from a time when umbrellas were used more for protection from the sun than from rain, and opening one indoors was considered an insult to the sun god. I keep my umbrella in the car, so I think I’m safe on this one.
- If a black cat crosses your path, you’ll experience bad luck. I’ve never really believed this. I love all cats. However, our local Humane Society reports that black cats are the least-adopted (of both cats and kittens) and they hold a ‘black cat sale’ (with reduced adoption fees) once a year. The fear of black cats goes back to the Middle Ages, when they were associated with witches. It was believed that witches would turn themselves into black cats in order to do the devil’s bidding. If a black cat crossed your path, it was because the devil had sent it to block your way to heaven. I’ve owned two black cats (and known many others, including my ‘grandcat’, Wilbur) and the only ‘devilish’ or ‘bad luck inducing’ thing I can say about them is that they’re impossible to see in a dark hallway at night, so if you’re not careful, you might just trip over them and cause yourself harm. Otherwise, they’re just as wonderful as any cat.
Perhaps these superstitions (and many others) are outdated or – according to my thesaurus: illogical, foolish, crazy, ridiculous, absurd, or silly) but I’ve practiced them for so long that I doubt I’d ever give them up. After all, they’ve worked for me right through to … the other side of 55.
Just before (our Canadian) Thanksgiving, I did a quick bit of outdoor decorating – I cut a dozen stems of ‘elephant grass’ from a ditch just north of here, tied them together and propped them next to the three pumpkins I’d picked up at the market. It wasn’t much, but it added a bit of ‘fall flavour’ to the front step. Here’s what it looked like on Thanksgiving Day (Monday, October 14):
The next day, when I returned from running some errands, I noticed that the pumpkin on the lower step had moved about 6 inches to the right. It wasn’t in a spot where either the newspaper deliveryman or the letter carrier might have nudged it with a foot when approaching the house, and its location meant it was unlikely that my husband had bumped into it when he’d gone off to work (in the dark) that morning. So I thought it was a bit odd, and wondered (briefly) who (or what) might have moved it:
It wasn’t until I went to put it back that I noticed bits of ‘pumpkin guts’ on the step beside it. When I rolled the pumpkin over to see where they’d come from, I found a perfectly round chipmunk sized hole in the bottom:
I probably shouldn’t be surprised that a chipmunk could suss out a free meal (according to PumpkinNook.com, “Squirrels and cute little chipmunks love pumpkin seeds. [They will] gnaw through your pumpkin to extract the seeds [and are] notorious at attacking pumpkins left out on the front step.”), but I’m amazed that s/he chose to chew through the bottom of the pumpkin instead of any of the exposed sides, and that while doing so, s/he moved it almost six inches from its original position (a chipmunk weighs, on average, about 3.5 ounces; the pumpkin is a 5 pounder).
I’ve written about chipmunks before (Humans vs. Chipmunks) – they’re amazing little creatures and such fun to have around. I’m glad one of them enjoyed a free Thanksgiving take out dinner, compliments of an animal lover who’s on … the other side of 55.
Tomorrow (Monday, September 2) is Labour Day here in Canada (and in the U.S.; several other countries celebrate Labour Day and/or International Workers’ Day on different days during the year). For Canadians, Labour Day is not only a national holiday, but the last long weekend (holiday) of the summer season (students traditionally return to school on the Tuesday following Labour Day).
Here in Canada, Labour Day originated as a result of the labour union movement. In April of 1872, 2,000 members of the 27 unions that comprised the Toronto Trades Assembly (TTA) – as well as 8,000 non-unionized workers in various professions, or fully 10% of the City of Toronto’s population at the time – marched to City Hall to show their support for the striking workers of the Toronto Typographical Union (TTU) – newspaper workers (all men) who were applying pressure on their employers (the wealthy and powerful newspaper magnates of the time) to reduce their working hours to a ‘modest’ 54 per week (six 9-hour days – down from the 11 to 12 hours a day they typically were required to work. Can you even IMAGINE anyone working ‘only’ 54 hours a week nowadays?!?!?)
The day after this ‘labour parade’, twenty-four of the TTU leaders were arrested, charged with ‘criminal conspiracy to disrupt trade’, and thrown in jail. The TTA wasn’t about to give up, however – shortly afterwards, seven of their unions marched on Ottawa (our country’s capital city) and were successful in getting the Prime Minister to agree to repeal the outdated anti-union laws. The rest, as they say, is history. (NOTES: (1) the U.S. labour movement was partially driven forward by the success of Canada’s union leaders in instituting legal rights for their workers; (2) while Labour Day was originally celebrated in the spring [the Trade Unions Act – making unions legal in Canada - was passed in June], it was officially declared a national holiday in 1894 and moved to the first Monday in September.)
Labour Day is traditionally celebrated with parades and picnics organized by trade unions, although many non-unionized companies also host events that recognize the value of their workers. It has also been suggested by some that women should be given particular ‘thanks’ on Labour Day for all the work they do ‘maintaining a home and raising children’ (an article on the front page of our local paper yesterday posed the question: “Is Labour Day still every day for women at home?”, wherein the writer questioned whether or not the division of household labour has changed since “men left all the chores to women while they brought home the bacon and conquered nations.”)
I’ve never participated in any kind of union celebration on Labour Day (although, as a College professor, I was a union member) and I don’t quite buy into the idea of honouring your ‘workers’ on one particular day of the year (shouldn’t they feel worthy EVERY day?!?!?) Still, I’ve always felt I should do SOMETHING to mark the passing of another summer and the beginning of another school year – a final beach day or a picnic or a long walk in the woods. And Labour Day is (obviously) the time to do that – it offers us a ‘day off’ to say a proper ‘farewell’ to summer. But how?
I’d been pondering just that question this morning when I came across this quote from Maya Angelou’s 1993 book of essays, “Wouldn’t Take Nothing For My Journey Now”:
“Every person needs to take one day away. A day in which one consciously separates the past from the future … A day away in which no problems are confronted, no solutions searched for.”
And in those words, I found my answer. Why not celebrate Labour Day by doing no labour at all? No matter what pressing work ‘needs’ to be done, take a day away. Don’t dwell on the past or worry about the future. Sidestep your problems, free yourself from seeking solutions. Do ‘nothing’. Ignore the laundry, avoid the vacuum cleaner, leave the eaves-troughs full of leaves, let the weeds have their way in the garden. Send out for pizza, make sandwiches (and have a totally ‘unplanned’ picnic on the lawn or the back deck), or – better yet – tell everyone in your house to make their own meals out of whatever they can find in the pantry or fridge (and clean up after themselves when they’re done). Lie in a hammock and stare up at the sky, read a good book, watch a movie, paint your toenails, go for a walk. Take a ‘day away’ from whatever your ‘work’ is and simply ‘be’ in the present moment.
Because sooner or later, you’ll have more Labour Days behind you than ahead of you; you’ll be on … the other side of 55.
According to a local realtor who left an advert in my mailbox this week, I live in a ‘Million Dollar Neighbourhood’. I can’t dispute his claim – there’s a house across the street (three doors up) that is currently listed for $1,099,000; another one a block further up that recently sold for just over $1,200,000; and one on the first cross street north of me that was advertised a few months ago at $1,250,000 (it sold within a week, so I assume they got close to the asking price). There are also three brand new homes just a few blocks away with price tags of $1,349,000, $1,375,000 and $1,995,000 (all were built on lots where older, smaller homes had previously stood – it’s becoming ‘de rigueur’ in many ‘well to do’ southern Ontario communities to tear down older homes and build ‘monster homes’ in their place.) Personally, I can’t see how any of these properties are worth that kind of money!
We knew when we bought here (13 years ago) that this was a ‘desirable’ neighbourhood – that houses sold quickly and at prices slightly higher than elsewhere in town. But my son wanted to attend the local high school, so we kept our search to this particular part of town (we’d previously lived in a subdivision in the north end of the city). It’s a ‘mature’ neighbourhood with a broad mix of house styles (everything from stately Victorians and early twentieth century farmhouses to quaint cottage style homes and modern bungalows) on generous, well-treed lots.
We’re close to most amenities (library, grocery stores, restaurants, banks, etc.), and the marketing types would tell you that we’re ‘within walking distance’ of the city’s acclaimed lakefront park and downtown shopping district (although it’s an-almost two mile hike, and you have to go under the highway and along a stretch of less-than-attractive roadway to get there). In addition, we’re ‘very close to’ the ritzy (>$10,000 to join) local golf and country club (you can see one of the fairways from my back deck, but the whole thing is fenced off so no one but members can get in) and the uber-expensive ‘Northshore’ community (about a mile south of us, the homes there overlook – or are within spitting distance of – the lake; there’s one ‘estate’ currently listed for sale at $4.5 million. I particularly like going for a walks in that area, because it’s relatively quiet and shady – and I figure if I get taken out by a car going just a little too fast on the curvy, undulating roadway, at least I’ll go down with a Mercedes or Audi logo embedded in my backside!)
Still, most of the homes in a six to eight block radius of where I live are ‘typical’ three or four bedroom bungalow, ranch, raised ranch or split level style homes – nothing spectacular, nothing ostentatious, nothing that screams ‘RICH PEOPLE LIVE HERE!’ Don’t get me wrong – I love my house and the area I live in, and if someone wants to give me three times what I paid for my house a dozen years ago, I’m not going to argue, but I simply don’t understand how house prices here (and in many other areas) have escalated to the point they’re at (homes in our neighbourhood generally sell for $550,000 and up), considering today’s economic climate.
I understand supply and demand (there are more buyers [demand] than houses available [supply] so prices rise). And I ‘get’ the marketing angle as well (people want to live in ‘desirable’ neighbourhoods, close to shops and services, and in proximity to the kind of people they aspire to be – like those who live in the Northshore area). But the numbers simply don’t make sense. Our city has a population of about 180,000; the average family income (according to Statistics Canada) is $86,000; there are (about) 70,000 ‘dwelling units’ in the city – 54% are single family homes, 22% are semi-detached or townhouses, the rest are condominiums (there are less than 5,000 rental units in the city). In May (2013), the average sale price of a home (according to the local Realtor’s Association) was $423,542 (an increase of 12.2% over May 2012).
In order to buy a million dollar house (in Ontario), you are required to make a minimum down payment of 20% ($200,000). Assuming you had access to that kind of cash, you would (still) need an annual (family) income of at least $250,000 to qualify for a mortgage (in Canada, if you earn more than $230,000, you’re among the top earning ‘1%’). Mortgage payments alone (i.e., not including property taxes, insurance, utilities, etc.) would be somewhere around $5,000 a month (assuming a 25 year term at current interest rates). I suppose – if 1% of our citizens actually DO earn that kind of money – there could conceivably be 1,800 people who could afford one of the 85 or so homes currently listed (through our local Multiple Listing Service) between $1,000,000 and $7,000,000 (about half of those listings are between $1 and $1.5 million; a dozen of them exceed $3 million).
The asking price for the cheapest single family house for sale in my immediate neighbourhood right now is $535,000. With (the required minimum) 5% down ($26,750), you’d have to have a combined family income of (approximately) $155,000 to qualify to buy it (monthly mortgage payments would run you about $3,300 – and things like taxes, utilities, etc. are going to drain at least that much again from your bank account).
Considering the ‘average household income’ in our city is just $86,000, I can’t fathom how the ‘average’ (never mind the ‘below average’) couple will ever be able to buy a house here (at an average selling price of >$400,000, you’d need to earn at least $120,000 a year to afford to buy; $86,000 in income and $12,000 in the bank would get a couple no more than a $212,000 house – and there are only three townhouses and two [high rise] condos currently for sale in that price range!).
If we take into account the fact that the majority of people in Canada are up to their ears in debt (we have a 165% debt to income ratio – i.e., people owe $1.65 for every $1.00 in AFTER TAX income they bring home), that heat and hydro and telephone and cable and clothes and insurance and car payments and food prices are all escalating out of control – where will the next generation of home buyers come from? (Granted, immigration is on the upswing and many homebuyers are newly arrived in Canada, but even they have to earn a living – and our wages don’t ‘equate’ to our house prices.) I worry about how our own children (i.e, MY 27 and 32 year olds) will ever get a foothold on even the bottom rung of the ‘property ladder’ (never mind move up it). They could ‘start out’ somewhere else, but the prices in cities and towns within commuting distance of where they work are similar to here – how far ‘out’ do they have to go (and at what cost)?
The ‘prestige’ of living in a ‘million dollar neighbourhood’ is kind of nice and I’m hopeful that there will be a qualified buyer out there in four or five years who wants my little piece of paradise at whatever the going price is at that time (when my husband and I retire ‘for good’ and move somewhere more rural). But I also hope that the housing bubble will ease off in the not-too-distant future (not necessarily burst, but come down to a reasonable level) so that the next generation can afford a home they can live and love in when they reach … the other side of 55.
I am blogging impaired. There, I said it. When I started this blog, I did mean to write more posts than I do. I really thought I would have more to say!
Over the years, I have had so many thoughts and opinions. Sometimes, I would think something and just say, "Wow, that is really deep! Maybe someone else would benefit from this." But, somehow, between the time I think a thought and the time I can actually find time to write about it, the power of the words are gone and I can't remember exactly what I thought in the first place.