In filling out an event feedback form last week, the age question put me into a startling category: 42-62. No way am I ready to be thinking of 60-somethings as contemporaries.
At 47, I’m embracing all the midlife delights and doldrums, except for gray hair (I’m totally fighting back).
I was listening to grunge and hiphop in high school while that older set were in their 30s before those genres became mainstream. So, I reject the association, drawing the line on behalf of Gen-Xers everywhere.
It is in these kinds of moments I ponder age. Birthdays and holidays are for parties and celebration, not grumbling about knee pain or laugh lines.
Age may be a number, but it’s also an unavoidable measure by which we gauge our life.
As a teenager, I thought 47 was close to retirement. In reality, retirement is a minimum of two decades away and seems a far-away option.
The notion of a long career is playing out across the ages.
For the first time in 57 years, the participation of retirement-age workers (65 and older) went beyond the 20% mark, as reported by Bloomberg in April.
Earlier this week, another poll found about one in four Americans say they never plan to retire, according to the Associated Press and NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.
Money is the reason including a lack of retirement savings accounts and high health care costs.
Right now, about 40% of Oklahomans over age 55 are in the workforce, and that is likely to grow. The state is a little low on that list (35th nationally), compared to the top states of Nebraska (48%) and Connecticut and North and South Dakota (tied at 47%).
The list of about 60 young, rich people gives the impression my ship may have sailed. Not so, says the advocates for the aging.
“You don’t have to peak at an early age to make it big,” the survey states. “In fact, there are many famous examples of rich people who didn’t strike it rich until later in life, and many Americans continue working long after retirement age.”
It was reassuring to see how many famous historical figures were in their later years when they got their life-changing breaks. The release featured 10 later-in-life millionaires including:
• Ray Kroc was 52 when he opened his first McDonald’s in Illinois in 1955. When he bought out the Kroc brothers in 1961, his restaurants had sales of about $37 million.
• Wally Amos, the first African American agent at the William Morris Agency, made his fortune in founding Famous Amos cookies. He opened the first store at age 39 and sold the brand at age 49.
• Grandma Moses (Anna Mary Robertson) was 78 years old when she had her art featured at New York City’s Museum of Modern Art.
• Laura Ingalls Wilder was 65 when she published the first installment of the “Little House” series in 1932.
• Harland Sanders, known as Colonel Sanders, became a millionaire at age 74 after selling his controlling interest in Kentucky Fried Chicken.
• Judge Judy (Judith Sheindlin), was 54 when her famous television show premiered.
On my own, I found a few more notable people who were about my age or older when they hit on a winning idea: Sam Walton (age 44), Henry Ford (45), Julia Child (49) and Charles Darwin (50).
Among writers, Maya Angelou was 41 when her first book, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” was published. Others include Henry Miller (“Tropic of Cancer”) at 43, Helen Dewitt (“The Last Samurai”) at 44, Raymond Chandler (Phillip Marlowe series) at 51, Richard Adams (“Watership Down”) at 52 and Frank McCourt (“Angela’s Ashes”) at 66.
And, finally, E.L. James was 48 when “Fifty Shades of Grey” was published.
So, if I can’t write a compelling autobiography, high-end literature or mystery, there’s always the low-brow but profitable erotica market.
The conclusion of The Senior List strikes an optimistic tone: “Whether they reached the pinnacle of their careers or made a shift that proved lucrative, there’s no doubt that the 10 people featured here are a testament to using your unique skills and talents to create a comfortable life. And as the data tell us, perhaps the next batch of late-in-life millionaires and billionaires are already making their moves.”
So, maybe I shouldn’t care too much about what age group someone wants to throw me into. Good bet none of those on that list gave much thought to it.
If anything, it shows life being lived fully, grabbing at opportunities when possible, may just lead down a prosperous path.
Mayor G.T. Bynum speaks during the 1921 Mass Graves Public Oversight Meeting.