Join me in this live two-hour class and discover the Five Things I’ve Learned about getting older by inviting people to share their own personal experiences of aging.
I’m Sari Botton, the creator of Oldster, a magazine that explores what it means to pass through time in a human body, at every phase of life.
I began publishing Oldster in late August, 2021, when I was approaching 56 (I’m 58 now), but I’ve been fascinated with what it means to get older from the time I was 10, when at my bowling birthday party, my uncle said, “Wow, you’ll never be one digit again.” It was the first time that my passage through a major milestone was noted so explicitly. It blew my little pre-teen mind. In the years that followed, I became obsessed with understanding which milestones we’re all supposed to meet when, because I always seemed to be either too early or too late, relative to my peers.
As I got into my 50s, and started to feel the effects of aging, and experienced gendered ageism on the job front. It made me even more fixated on what aging means, in various ways, and curious about other people’s experiences of getting older. And it made me want to destigmatize and normalize the aging experience by demonstrating that it’s happening to everyone, of all genders and ages, all the time. So I launched Oldster Magazine, where I’m fostering an intergenerational conversation about aging.
One of the most popular features of the magazine is The Oldster Magazine Questionnaire, which has now been filled out by hundreds of people of all ages. The Questionnaire is comprised of 14 questions designed to get a people’s real feelings about their current experience, questions that include:
- Is there another age you associate with yourself in your mind? If so, what is it? And why, do you think?
- Do you feel old for your age? Young for your age? Just right? Are you in step with your peers?
- What do you like about being your age?
- What is difficult about being your age?
- What is surprising about being your age, or different from what you expected, based on what you were told?
- What has aging given you? Taken away from you?
- How has getting older affected your sense of yourself, or your identity?
Through respondents’ answers to the questionnaire, I’ve learned important things about aging today—which seems different from how our grandparents and other prior generations experienced it.
In our time together, I’ll offer my thoughts about what I’ve learned, and I’ll also give you a chance to think about and share your thoughts to some of the questions from The Oldster Magazine Questionnaire. I’ll invite as many of you as we have time for to read some of your responses aloud.
We’ll talk together first about five of the most important Things I’ve Learned about what aging means today:
- For most people, there is a discrepancy between their chronological age, and the age at which they perceive themselves. More often than not, that second age is younger than their chronological age. Although, in a few cases, people talked about having old souls, and feeling as if they are older than they are. For some people, the age they are in their mind is associated with a time when they experienced a major trauma. For others, it’s associated with when they were living their best life. And for some, it’s just a matter of having a different association with the number assigned to them now, because they recall prior generations being more “adult” at their age.
- As they move into middle age, and even more so as they move into life’s “third act,” most people stop caring as much about what other people think of them. They come to know themselves better, and find life is too short to waste time being false, or letting other people’s approval motivate their choices. They begin to shed “false selves” they might have created as a way to keep others happy with them, and they find this sort of molting to be very freeing.
- In many cases, people’s lives improve as they get older and into retirement, which surprises many of them, because that runs counter to the culture’s narrative about aging. On my 58th birthday this year, when I mentioned in an Oldster post that I was freaking out about turning 60 two years from now, several readers commented that their lives took surprising, happy turns after 60—new loves, new careers, new hobbies, new perspectives, new life experiences they never anticipated. It’s made me open up to the possibility that things could get better, not worse, going forward. Which, honestly, is how things have been going for me already. I’m the most content with my life and my work that I’ve ever been, something 38-year-old me definitely did not see coming 20 years ago!
- The “invisibility” that supposedly comes with aging isn’t experienced by everyone. Some people say they are still attracting the attention they want—from friends, strangers, and potential new romantic partners. Among those who are experiencing “invisibility,” a fair number welcome it. They’re happy to stop worrying about keeping up certain aspects of their appearance. It’s a relief for them to retreat from the spotlight.
- I’m always pleasantly surprised when I hear from much older contributors—especially post-menopausal women—that they found love later in life, and not only are they still into sex, they’re having a lot of it, and discovering new things. On the flip side, many respondents welcome the decline in their sex drive. As Elizabeth Gilbert wrote in one of her responses to the Oldster Questionnaire, “I love that I can’t be as flattered anymore by sexual attention from anyone, because I’m not that interested…”
Then, I’ll give you a chance to share what you know.
Learning from others is a great way to develop and provoke your own thoughts about what matters most to you, particularly as you contemplate what I very much hope will your own best and most rewarding years.
I hope you’ll join me for what I think will be a remarkable chance to learn together.
I look forward to meeting you then!
– Sari Botton
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