Science tells us at different ages, we are best situated for certain achievements: 18 is the best age to test your brain's power. At 71, your vocabulary is at its most expansive. In this Reporter's Notebook, "CBS This Morning" co-host John Dickerson reflects on something none of us has control over: aging.
I turned 50 recently. This is a fact I could not avoid because Facebook required everyone I know to make a comment.
The message was clear: 50 is a fact I must come to terms with. But I already have. To accommodate my aging eyes, the lettering on my phone can now be seen from space. My hairs are tracked like an endangered species.
When you have a mid-summer birthday, you are aware of your mortality. Summertime is like a lifespan. You roll around in the early days with hours to burn. But then the hands on the clock start to spin at the speed of a propeller on a biplane. Suddenly, summer's over and you wonder where the time went. Still, to drive the point home, my family gave me a bottle of Centrum Silver.
Surveys do show that when people are asked to assess how they're doing, 50 is the age when they feel most glum. They're worried about retirement, adolescent kids are driving them crazy or they've left and they miss them. But then things turn around. People get happier as they age! Older people are less stressed, are nourished by personal relationships and feel deeper gratitude.
We can nurture this. Don't rage against the dying of the light. But exploit the perspective that comes from age. Let each fruit be harvested in its own season, wrote Cicero in his study of old age. "It's not by strength or speed…that great deeds are done, but by wisdom, character, and sober judgment. These qualities are not lacking in old age but in fact grow richer."
So, if we must see this age as the first dimming, it should not be the twilight of the setting day, but like the moment the lights start to dim before a movie: a sign of excitement to come. We don't know how the story will end, but at least we can buy the popcorn.
Read more from Reporter's Notebook: