The Older I Get…

I was talking to Scottsdale City Council candidate Guy Phillips yesterday about the aches and pains of being over 50. He said that when he turned 50 he was  bummed that he was no longer “middle aged.” Then I was bummed, too.

Which reminded me of a saying often repeated by my old friend Bill Packer:

“The older I get, the better I was.”

However, the conversation also reminded me of a recent post I saw on Slashdot by Hugh Pickens entitled, “Is Middle Age Evolution’s Crowning Achievement?”

“Reproductive biologist David Bainbridge writes that with the onset of wrinkles, love handles, and failing eyesight we are used to dismissing our fifth and sixth decades as a negative chapter in our lives. However recent scientific findings show just how crucial middle age has been to the success of our species and that with the probable existence of lots of prehistoric middle-aged people, natural selection had plenty to work on.

‘We lead an energy-intensive, communication-driven, information-rich way of life, and it was the evolution of middle age that supported this,’ writes Bainbridge, adding that middle age is a controlled and pre-programmed process, not of decline, but of development.

‘When we think of human development, we usually think of the growth of a fetus or the maturation of a child into an adult. Yet the tightly choreographed transition into middle age is a later but equally important stage in which we are each recast into yet another novel form’ — resilient, healthy, energy-efficient and productive. ‘The middle aged may not have been able to outrun the prey, but they were really good at working out where it might be hiding and dividing up the spoils afterwards.’

Although some critics say that [the term] “middle age” is a construct of the middle aged, Bainbridge asserts that one key role of middle age is the propagation of information. ‘All animals inherit a great deal of information in their genes; some also learn more as they grow up. Humans have taken this second form of information transfer to a new level. We are born knowing and being able to do almost nothing. Each of us depends on a continuous infusion of skills, knowledge and customs, collectively known as culture, if we are to survive. And the main route by which culture is transferred is by middle-aged people showing and telling their children — as well as the young adults with whom they hunt and gather — what to do.'”

So, I think Guy prematurely promoted us out of “middle age,” which seems to be defined by this author as ending at 60!

Which in-turn reminds me of an aviation saying:

A superior pilot uses his superior judgment to avoid situations that would require the use of his superior skills.

And, aircrew training science tells us that the four primarily keys to success as a pilot are:

  1. Attitude: Receptiveness and the desire to perform well.
  2. Knowledge: Understanding oneself, the machine, and the environment in which they operate.
  3. Skill: Ability to operate without mistakes, gained from practice.
  4. Judgement: The ability to anticipate and make a timely, authoritative, correct decision or choice.

So, maybe this middle age thing is just about being better in a different way!

It certainly speaks to why we want experienced folks with a proven track record on our City Council.

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  1. Reminds me of the scene in “On Golden Pond” when Henry Fonda’s character refers to himself as “middle aged” and his wife immediately points out, “we can’t be middle aged….people don’t live to be 160 years old!” : )

    A great read related to the article you excerpted above is “The Secret Life of the Grown-up Brain: The Surprising Talents of the Middle-Aged Mind” by Barbara Strauch. The research that Strauch cites made me appreciate my aging brain more than I was before.

    And she agrees with you: wisdom matters!

  2. Great article, John~ of course, you know how i feel~ been telling people for years that 70 is the new 50! For a surprising number of people, it is. We fight smarter instead of harder… but it still works! We have the compassion to look out for the aged and truly infirm, instead of cussing them and wishing they’d get out of the way~ we know that strength comes as much from the brain, the heart, and the soul, as from the body.. .some times more so!

    As far as aches & pains go~ I think I sent you an e-mail about that. You’re driving an older model, you need a little more maintenance 🙂
    Take care, and have a beautiful day!

  3. Another astute reader reminded me of the old proverb:

    “Old age and treachery always beats youth and skill.”

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