Ageing: 60 – Getting Better At It With Age

Kanreki

Ageing is a liberating experience for me. 23 months ago saw my 60th birthday. Turning the page of a calendar isn’t something which should invoke different behaviours and feelings, but it did. A Californian holiday with my wife was a good disconnection from the day to day. On our return I uncharacteristically had a birthday party with six of my oldest friends and their partners. I felt privileged and content.

A sense of inner freedom settled over me during the coming weeks and now months. I had done some reading on the Japanese concept of kanreki: when you complete five cycles of the Chinese zodiac calendar, you are back at the start and it’s the start of a second childhood, a rebirth. That was my strong sense, this a new beginning not the start of the ending.

Ageing defines some things for me, on the other hand it defines nothing, I’m age agnostic. Professionally age has given me a wisdom, my role has leaned towards more strategy and in particular selecting and developing people. I’m in a fortunate situation where I love my work and retirement isn’t a concept I’m ever going to engage with. My team gets younger and younger, a business in the throes of embracing e-commerce. It’s a dynamic business and I’m one of the hard chargers at the forefront, “old” isn’t what defines me. I can’t say what my young team think, but that’s not something I reflect on much.

ageing Kanreki symbol Japanese custom rebirth after 60 ageing celebrated
Kanreki script (Image from sosekido.com)

Ageing And Physical Wellbeing

Physically I rationally understand that my muscle mass will decrease with ageing, my aerobic capability will decline. I’ve never been very athletic but I’m in better shape now than when I was fifty. That’s measurable, because I measure everything from waking heart rate variability to quarterly blood tests to check my fitness to exercise. Experimentation with leading edge ideas such ingesting ketone esters, trying intermittent fasting regimes – it’s all fascinating to me.

There are no illusions about turning the clock back, I have no ambition to try. I’m just me and I compete against me to see if I can improve in an area and experiment with new ideas. It’s never about holding back the years, it’s seeing where next. Last year I clocked the most miles ever on my road bike, for example. This year I’m cross training and trying to balance endurance and strength.

Ageing And Mental Wellbeing

I’ve suffered from depression for as long as I can remember and at points in my life it has been a load to carry. But now I’m at peace with my mental health. I don’t see depression as something that is cured, I see it as being on a spectrum and dealing with it accordingly. I’m less afraid, less apprehensive even when I can sense the early signs. More importantly I don’t feel guilty or ashamed of depression any more. It’s part of who I am. Being more honest with myself and not beating myself up that mental health issues mean I’m inferior.

I talk to people I trust about my challenge without being embarrassed and it’s enormously helpful. To be sure, the prejudices are still strong. It’s only recently that I broke cover and published a blog post on the subject of mental health in the workplace. As the leader of a business that carries some risk. Some will now see me as “weak” or “flawed”. Yes, I know that’s absurd but the business world isn’t yet fully comfortable with the issue.

The Power Of Intimacy

Five years ago saw my personal life reborn too as I married a wonderful woman. I went into it with an open mind and heart and was rewarded more than I could have imagined. A scared part of me had believed, not too long before, that a grey and lonely final quarter of life was the path I was heading down. I was proved wrong, I’m now much more open to intimacy and feeling relaxed in a loving relationship.

Life is very good indeed. It’s taken work and having to really learn the lessons that the years have gifted with me. Understanding that there is only shame in mental health issues if you allow yourself to believe that, if you are taken in too much by the fear of being branded “broken”. Being honest with myself about who I am and realising, well maybe I’m not the failure I thought I was. More open about my feelings and embracing intimacy in relationships.

The Adventure

Getting old isn’t really part of my mindset, I’m ageing and that’s very different. It’s all part of the adventure. Personally and professionally I feel there is so much to experience and to learn and I feel excited. Quite often I hear myself at work say “we are only just getting started here” and that’s a from the head and from the heart feeling. I reflected on that some weeks ago and it’s apparent to me the phrase applies to my whole life.

I’m just starting up a new business venture with a talented young music producer who is in his late twenties. The overwhelming sense of nervousness and excitement is the same as when I entered into my first venture a long time ago. It never gets old and I’m excited as to the possibilities and entering a completely new sector.

The really enjoyable part of the ageing experience is that I enjoy it that I’m past my kanreki birthday, I see it as an advantage and an asset. To bring the best of my experience and emotional intelligence to the world and to remain open to new thinking and adventures.


Also published on Medium.

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