And, of course, if we could be an earlier age with the confidence and wisdom we have now, the answers would be different. But that would be cheating.
Responses to my survey
Altogether, there were roughly 215 readers’ comments following my article, which had been posted on two separate occasions. Of these, 122 expressed a clear preference for a particular age, with the following responses:
sixties & over 51
In sum, 71 people (58%) indicated that they would prefer to be younger, while 51 (42%) were very happy where they were. Most of the latter were in their 60s, but a small number were older, including one or two in their 80s. This was not a random sample, but I thought it was interesting nonetheless.
Although the majority said they would prefer to be younger, many of the comments were more nuanced than the simple numbers suggest. Many noted they would like to be younger, but with the knowledge and confidence that they have now, so perhaps they should really be excluded from the count. Some simply wanted to enjoy their children’s childhoods all over again. And some would like to be younger to enable them to make better decisions about their life. In other words, this was not such a clear vote for being younger per se.
Happy older women
And there were a great number of very. happy older women, who were keen to explain why. Some just seemed to feel very settled with their lives:
“For me, being 60 is perfect. I realise we all have our stories and our season. I believe my season is 60 and I intend to enjoy it.” (Karen)
“I love, LOVE the age I am now. At almost 65, I’m active, wiser, making better life choices and loving retirement.” (Debra)
“I would not want to look or be younger. My age, grey hair and wrinkles are perfect!” (Barbara)
Some talked of seeing their later years as a natural progression:
“Love being 67. I worked hard to get here happy and healthy – planning to retire in a few months and enjoy the next season of life.” (Carrie)
“I am just fine with the age that I am, 67. I have had a colourful, eventful, heart-breaking, rewarding and amazing life so far. I wouldn’t change a thing.” (Shelly)
“I would like my body to be young, sans the creaking, the loss of strength and perhaps a few wrinkles, but I prefer to be the fine wine aged to perfection that I have become.” (Carmela)
“I quite like myself at age 86. Every year has more to offer and we never know what the future has in store.” (Brenda)
And some welcomed their much greater self-esteem:
“No, I wouldn’t want to be younger. It took me a long time to get where I am mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually. I would never go back. Love my life at 66.” (Judi)
“It has taken me 62 years to truly start loving myself and be excited about my plans for the future… It is my time now and it is all good.” (Patricia)
“Good gosh, NO. My younger life was a mess, thanks to me. Older and hopefully wiser. I have no desire to go back.” (Lee)
“I’m finally figuring myself out. Why would I want to go backwards?” (Dianne)
These comments accord with a number of surveys undertaken to examine happiness at different ages. To list just one, a major study of 300,000 adults across the UK found that life satisfaction, happiness and a general feeling that life was worthwhile peaked among men and women aged 65-79 (Office for National Statistics, Measuring National Well-being in the UK, 2016). These feelings did drop off among those over the age of 80, however, possibly arising from poorer health and greater loneliness.
So what can we conclude from all these views?
Every life has its own particular course – its peaks and troughs, its joys and tribulations. Whether the total adds up to a happy life or a disappointed one cannot be predicted in advance, arising from so many differing events over the course of our years.
But it does seem that a lot of us do come to the view – taking the bad with the good – that being older has much to recommend it. It is not inevitably a difficult time.
There is much left to sample in life, roll around our mouths and savour.
This is a cause for celebration.
A version of this article can be found in my book, The Granny Who Stands on her Head: Reflections on growing older (see getbook.at/Stands-on-Head)
It was also published on SixtyandMe.com