As you get older three things happen. The first is your memory goes, and I can’t remember the other two.

It was tempting to dedicate this week’s thought to the riots going on in my homeland.  However, I promised you, dear reader, that my blog would explore my opinions and philosophies, and not be some politicized drivel that anyone with half a brain could cut and paste from a few news web sites.

So what, I hear you ask, is my personal voyage this week?  Well, after talking about my beliefs and then my feelings regarding guns, I thought I would take an easy route this week…I’m going to talk about my age.

On September 3 this year, I will celebrate (or commiserate, depending on which side of the birthday cake your are standing) surviving for fifty years on the surface of planet Earth.  Some consider this a momentous achievement; others think it the beginning of the millstone that eventually becomes old age.  I have tried to work out how I view this anniversary for myself, I have to admit that I’m perplexed.

What does it mean to be fifty?  After all, it’s just a number, right?  Seeing that I am a mathematician, I went to the fountain of all knowledge (Wikipedia) to see if it could shed some light on my dilemma.

Cardinal fifty
Ordinal 50th
Numeral system quinquagesimal
Factorization  2 * 5 * 5
Divisors 1, 2, 5, 10, 25, 50
Roman numeral L
Binary 1100102
Octal 628
Duodecimal 4212
Hexadecimal 3216

Fifty is the smallest number that is the sum of two non-zero square numbers in two distinct ways: 50 = 12 + 72 = 52 + 52. It is also the sum of three squares, 50 = 32 + 42 + 52.  It is a Harshad number.

There is no solution to the equation φ(x) = 50, making 50 a nontotient.  Nor is there a solution to the equation x – φ(x) = 50, making 50 a noncototient.

The aliquot sum of 50 is 43 and its aliquot sequence is (50,43,1,0).  Fifty is itself the aliquot sum of 40 and 94.

Now I know that everyone reading those facts will be saying “Well DUH!!!  That’s the obvious stuff.”  However, I found myself completely nonplussed by Wikipedia’s lack of meaningful age-related information, so I thought I would try to come up some facts of my own that would pique my interest:

  • If I live the average life-expectancy for a US male, I am going to be around for another 25.6 years,
  • There are more 50-year-olds in America right now than any other single-age group (the second largest single-age group, not counting the stragglers around 50) is 20-year-olds.
  • I can now join the swelling ranks of the American Association of Retired Persons (the swelling is in the ankles, by the way),
  • I only have to wait another 16 years for Social Security payments to kick in (hopefully there will be some money left for me to collect),
  • I won’t be the only one suffering this ageist angst.  Apart from President Obama, I share my apparent misery with Wayne Gretzky, Eddie Murphy, Carl Lewis, Boomer Esiason, George Lopez, George Clooney, Billy Ray Cyrus, Drew Carey, Michael J Fox, Forest Whitaker, Woody Harrelson, Laurence Fishburne, Toby Keith, and The Edge from U2,
  • Oh, Fabio and Boy George also turn 50 in 2011, but I am trying very hard to not think about that…ever.

I have never considered myself as “old” after all, I don’t even consider myself as middle-aged!  I am convinced that somewhere in the cavernous expanse that is the inside of my head, I still believe that I am 35 and can do anything that I turn my mind to.  I am very happy and content, have a wonderful and loving wife and family, friends who respect and value my presence, a fantastically rewarding job, and I live in a beautiful part of the world…what more could a man ask for?

Well here is the funny thing.  The ability to become a member of the AARP stopped me in my tracks.  Why has this happened, especially when I am so ecstatic about my life and achievements?  I never expected such a negative reaction, nor did I think that it would cause me to carry out such a deep and reflective evaluation of my life.  Yet, now I find myself ruminating about the life that I have lived, and contemplating what the future holds for me.  Nevertheless, all is not lost!  Those that know me well also realize that I am a consummate spin-doctor, so I’m buggered if I am going to let this get me down!

So this week my thought is to look inwardly and reflect, finding the positives that come with turning the old half-century.

What does it REALLY mean to me to be turning 50 and what SHOULD I be thinking about for my future?

I have had a realization that once we make it past 40-years-of-age, we have to appreciate that we finally have enough experience and freedom to begin to grow as individuals.  We also need to reject the inevitable and not succumb to a rapid decline.  After all, I know people who are over 90 years-of-age who always look forward to what today will bring, and tomorrow, and the day after that (repeat ad nauseum).

Unfortunately, I also know a few people under the age of 25 (and some even younger) who have already quit on life.  They see no bright future, and are happy to disappear into the middle of the maelstrom that they have created for themselves.  Luckily, those with a more positive outlook on life outnumber these poor people, but we need to spread the message to them too.

This realization actually dawned on me ten years earlier on my thirtieth birthday.  It felt like I was sliding rapidly downhill from youth to old age.  The slide was uncontrollable; I might as well pull on a pair of Depends and wait for the Grim Reaper to show up at my door.

However, I soon found that I had been looking at the picture all wrong, upside down, in fact.  I should have recognized that I was actually climbing.

I know, I know, you are going to tell me that it is just a matter of perspective, that the only thing I had to do was change mine.  Yet I still made it very, very hard for myself because I associated my perspective with a specific age group and then treated it as inevitable, because after all, aging is inevitable.

Then I read a Gallup survey that really helped me turn things around.  Three-hundred-and-forty-thousand people were asked to gauge their happiness relative to their age.  The immediate, self-indulgent emotions — happiness, enjoyment, stress, worry, anger and sadness — all changed with age, but the survey showed very distinct patterns.  For example, stress and anger steadily decreased from young adulthood through old age.  On the other hand, worry was fairly constant until age 50, then it declined.  Sadness levels rose slightly in the early 40s and declined in the mid 50s, but overall sadness didn’t change much with age.

In addition, people’s overall satisfaction with their lives showed a U-shaped pattern, dipping down until about the age of 50 before trending upward again.

Men and women showed very similar patterns in terms of how well-being changed with age, though women tended to have higher levels of stress, worry and sadness.  However, women had about the same levels of happiness as men and tended to feel better overall about their lives, especially during the first 50 years.

So it seems that turning 50 is indeed a very important milestone, but not for the negative motives that I originally associated with it.  It looks like the next fifty years of my life are going to be full of endless happiness, contentment, and stress-free living.

There is an old saying that says “we dig our own grave”.  Well I am here to say that I am not going to dig mine, so “Ya Boo Sucks to you”!!!!!



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Filed under Birthday, Fifty, Growing old, Old age

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