Paul McCartney was 24 when the Beatles recorded “When I’m 64,” and I was 17.
This song was included in Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, one of the foundations of our overblown youth revolution, and brought unwelcome thoughts about aging to mind. We viewed old age with fear and wonder, and our motto was “Never trust anyone over 30.”
Well, today I’m staring 64 in the face. McCartney’s voice, the clarinets, and the quaint, mocking melody of “When I’m 64” have spurred a lot of speculation over the decades of what getting to this age would be like.
The speculation is over, and this I will tell you: I don’t feel old. This is the age of Dorian Gray — the time when you don’t feel as time-worn as that face in the mirror. Feeling old means feeling debilitated and tired all the time, or so I’ve heard. I’m not there — yet.
We’ve learned a lot about aging and how to slow it down since McCartney wrote “When I’m 64.”
People were generally older then at 64 than they are now. Smoking and drinking for example, were expected, not just accepted, and the ravages of both were usually quite telling by the time 64 rolled around.
Since then, we’ve discovered and adopted medical treatments, exercise, diet, and lifestyle changes that help us stay healthier longer. Many of us have quit smoking, cut down or stopped drinking, cut down portions, fat and sugars, and have learned to get up and move with some regularity.
We take statin drugs for cholesterol and high-blood pressure medications when we need to. All of these changes make us healthier than our parents were at any age, by and large.
I don’t feel much different at 64 from how I felt at 44, not that time has stood still. What was chronically sore then is at least as painful now. Nights end earlier and days start sooner than they used to. A cup of tea in the evening is usually far more appealing than a couple shots of bourbon.
I can also say I’ve been lucky, and I hope my luck holds out.
Other things have changed since 1967: A cottage on the Isle of Wight will run you 250,000 pounds sterling, or about $412,000. McCartney could afford that now, but I’d doubt if the modest character whom he imagined singing the song could.
McCartney pictured himself as retired by then. The Social Security Administration tells us our retirement should be delayed until we are at least 67 these days.
McCartney’s singer pledged to “scrimp and save” with the woman he was asking to marry. We didn’t, or at least not enough, on either side of the Atlantic. We are all being warned to save more than we thought we’d have to, and for too many of us, it’s already too late to make up the difference. That means we’re all working longer.
So, it’s a good thing that most of us are also more energetic and can give our employers the benefits of our accumulated wisdom for a longer time.
As for me, I no longer have to wonder what happens when I’m 64. Sir Paul was wealthy beyond his dreams at 64, but he had suffered some personal tragedies. I’ll settle for having most of it turn out better than I thought it would.
Steve Hansen is the managing editor at the Quay County Sun. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org