6. Happy Birthday to You

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What do the candles on your birthday cake mean? They simply tell your age. That’s all. They don’t tell what kind of jobs you can do. They don’t say how healthy you are. Yet, your age has become a figure that can control your life. Your income, your social benefits, your way of life greatly depend upon your age.

Yet a person’s “calendar” age may not be a good measurement to use. You may be sixty-five years old by the calendar. Still you may feel and act even younger than a person who is fifty-five.

As a result, employers today are starting to depend more on “functional” age. The actual date of birth is becoming less of a factor. An older worker has a great deal to offer his company. He is wiser, more experienced and uses better judgment than new employees. As a rule, he knows how to make a decision and when to make it. He knows when to speak up and when not to. Most important, he probably knows when to listen, something that is usually not seen before middle age.

Even the idea of middle age may change, too. People are living longer. People may soon be living to ages well over 100. When this happens, middle age would then be placed at seventy. Since our country is faced with shortages of many goods and services, we should start to think of a person’s ability to contribute, regardless of age.

History tells us of people who reached their peak after middle age. Verdi wrote “Othello” when he was seventy-three. Cervantes wrote Don Quixote when in his middle years. Ben Franklin invented bifocal lenses when he was in his seventies.

Pearl Buck, a great writer, once talked about her eightieth birthday. She said that she was a far better person at eighty than she was at fifty or forty. She said that she had learned a great deal since she was seventy. She felt that she had learned more in those ten years than in any other ten-year period.

In fact, Pearl was right. Studies show that smart people tend to get smarter at they grow older. The brain is like a muscle. The more you use it, the more it develops. Each one of us has something that can be used to help society and ourselves. Let’s not let the candles on a birthday cake stand in the way.

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