In the Times’ Booming column, gay men talk about aging out of a community that prizes youth and beauty. Steve Petrow, the author of “Steven Petrow’s Complete Gay & Lesbian Manners,” (Workman, 2011), offers advice.
Q. Dear Civil Behavior: Your comment in a recent column about gays at midlife finding themselves “suddenly invisible — aged out by the young, restless and beautiful” resonated loudly with me. At 59 I am single and almost friendless. I live in Philadelphia, which has a reasonably sized gay community, yet I feel like an outsider. Many of my friends died two decades ago and my contemporaries have started retiring to Florida. I would like to go out dancing sometimes, but I don’t feel comfortable going to bars anymore. The Internet seems full of people looking to do drugs. I remember the distaste we all once had for “old people,” but I’m tired of staying home on weekends. Do you have any advice? —Stephen W., Philadelphia
A. Dear Stephen: Believe me, I understand “the middle ages” can be difficult for anyone, gay or straight. After all, wasn’t it Phyllis Diller who cracked: “Maybe it’s true that life begins at 50 … but everything else starts to wear out, fall out or spread out.” The ability to laugh — and laugh at ourselves — is key to our happiness.
Still, there are some unusual and disproportionate challenges to aging within the gay community that your experiences highlight. “Many L.G.B.T. older people experience high rates of social isolation,” says Michael Adams, executive director of Services and Advocacy for G.L.B.T. Elders, an organization dedicated to helping older members of our community. “We’re twice as likely to be single and to live alone, and three to four times as likely to be childless. And many of us are estranged from our families of origin, and so are only half as likely as our heterosexual counterparts to have close relatives to lean on for help.” Adding salt to these wounds, a 2004 study, “Old, Gay, and Alone?” reported that 44 percent of older gay men “feel disconnected from or even unwelcomed by younger generations of L.G.B.T. people.”
To read the rest, click here.
I spoke to reporter Alyssa Shaffer at Livestrong.com about what you need to do to keep in shape.
“If the legendary fountain of youth really existed, it’s a pretty good bet you’d have to bike, swim, walk, surf or stretch to reach it. “There’s an enormous amount of research that shows that the best thing by far you can do to stay healthy and vibrant is to exercise,” notes Patricia Cohen, the author of “In Our Prime: The Invention of Middle Age.” “Science shows that to whatever degree you can add movement to your life, you’ll benefit significantly.”
That’s something these five vivacious, and successful, women have discovered first hand. A few of them are recent converts to their favorite pastimes; others have been working out or playing sports for decades. But all have found that being active (and eating well) not only keeps them looking beautiful, but – more important – makes them feel happy, energetic, and in love with life. Let them inspire you to get moving….”
“It won’t be a nostalgic trip back to 1965. It won’t be one big Springsteen concert.” That is how Michael Winerip introduces The New York Times’ newest blog — Booming — which is aimed at….you guessed it, boomers.
“Come to Booming to be informed and entertained and feel at home. We will showcase essays from readers in their 50s writing about their lives, but also essays by 25-year-olds describing their parents’ lives.
If you loved Jose Feliciano’s 1967 version of “Sunny,” we’ll tell you why you might also like Ben Howard’s 2011 version of “Only Love.”
We are going to ask some of you the secrets of being married for 30 years, and others, the secrets of getting divorced after 30.
Booming will have plenty of serious features geared to this demographic — about Medicare, Social Security, unemployment trends. We’ll have experts to answer questions on aging, retirement, investing and sex.
You’ll hear about books, movies, magazines and blogs that we think you’ll want to investigate. Or to stay away from.
But most important is you. Our generation is getting through the middle ages in 78 million ways. We want to hear your stories. Welcome.”
I hope to write for it down the road if my handlers in the Culture section will free me up.
The always interesting Gretchen Reynolds points out that while Americans are living longer, they are not necessarily living better. The increase of chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease are up thanks largely to overeating and inactivity. (“The Weight of the Nation,” a great documentary series on HBO by a friend of mine John Hoffman offers a fascinating look at our collective weight problem.)
“Those adults who had been the least fit at the time of their middle-age checkup also were the most likely to have developed any of eight serious or chronic conditions early in the aging process. These include heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and colon or lung cancer.”
There is hope, though. A new study shows that even longtime couch potatoes can dramatically improve their health by starting to exercise in middle age.
“Being or becoming fit in middle age, the study found, even if you haven’t previously bothered with exercise, appears to reshape the landscape of aging.”
”…the results show, in essence, that being physically fit “compresses the time” that someone is likely to spend being debilitated during old age, leaving the earlier post-retirement years free of serious illness and, at least potentially, imbued with a finer quality of life.”
Read the whole story here.
As much as we all hate to exercise, it is increasingly clear that it is the only fountain of youth that exists. As reported in Medical Daily:
“It’s not just vigorous exercise and sports that are important. These leisure-time activities represent moderate intensity exercise that is important to health. It is especially important for older people to be physically active because it contributes to successful aging,” said lead author Mark Hamer, PhD, associate professor of epidemiology and public health at University College in London, U.K.
I spoke to a wonderful crowd at the Free Public Library in Louisville about “In Our Prime” last night. Again and again people in the audience rose to talk about how much they think a positive attitude about aging and being involved makes them feel younger and healthier. I also discovered a new drink there: Maker’s Mark and ginger ale. Salud.
As I’ve noted before, middle age is a land with indistinct borders — there is no clear year where it starts and ends. Dictionaries and researchers don’t agree and neither do survey respondents, whose answers shift depending on their age, gender, race, and profession. A new study by Anne Barrett, a researcher at Florida State University, comes to the same conclusion — but with two interesting caveats.
First, she found that both women and men think that middle age begins earlier for women than for men. This is a definite change from the 1990s according to the mammoth research project, Midlife in the United States.
Secondly, she found that on average, most people think middle age begins at 44 and ends at 60. That’s younger than I would have thought, particularly with the retirement age being pushed back a bit from 65. (After all, a 2009 Pew Research Center survey of 50-to-64 year olds found that respondents thought middle age ended at 71.) I haven’t looked at the data yet to see exactly who she interviewed.
What I concluded after researching the subject, is that middle age is a Never Never Land — younger people never want to enter it and older people never want to leave it.
The study, “Mapping Midlife: An Examination of Social Factors Shaping Conceptions of the Timing of Middle Age,” was published in the journal Advances in Life Course Research. Here are some of the findings:
“• Both women and men view the start and end of middle age as occurring earlier for women than for men, consistent with the argument that a “double standard of aging” exists that disadvantages women.
• Younger adults tend to see middle age as occurring at younger ages than do older adults. In other words, as people grow older, they tend to see this life stage as occurring later.
• People who are more socioeconomically disadvantaged or belong to racial or ethnic minority groups tend to view this stage as occurring earlier than do their peers.
• Others likely to view middle age as occurring earlier include those in poor health, those who began families young, those who are divorced, and those without living parents.”
At petside.com, Amanda Kelly writes that a new report from the American Veterinary Medical Association has recategorized the age groupings of dogs and cats.
“With their new age classifications, the AVMA concedes that small dogs and cats are considered elderly at age seven, and larger dogs are considered geriatric at as young as six.
On the surface, the new labels may not mean much to the everyday pet owner. But for those in the adoption world, these new labels raise the question: what does this mean for shelter dogs?
With the new labels, dogs normally considered middle age will now be viewed as “old dogs”, an undesirable label for pets seeking to be adopted. According to an AP-Petside.com poll that ran last November, only 15 percent of Americans looking to adopt a pet were in the market for a senior pet.
Despite the age labels, there are many benefits to adopting an older dog.”
I will be speaking about my book, “In Our Prime: The Invention of Middle Age,” at The National Arts Club, at 8 pm on Tuesday March 27. The address is 15 Gramercy Park South and the event is free and open to the public. For more information, call (212) 475-3424 or visit http://www.nationalsrtsclub.org.
In writing his classic history of advertising in America, the historian Roland Marchand collected a wonderful archive of images that I used while researching my book. You can read about it here.