A bumper sticker on the back of the door to my old office boldly proclaimed: "Enjoy Your Age!"
I looked at that slogan nearly every working day from the time I was 45 until I was nearly 55.During the time when most men grieve their lost youth, it reminded me that every age has it own joys.
As Betty Friedan writes in "Fountain of Age," age is an adventure. No particular age is entirely a light comedy or a frolic. It is an adventure.
How does a person become a positive model of aging? An attitude of openness to challenge makes it possible to enjoy old age. Challenge is the doorway.
As one feisty old sage told Friedan, "I'd rather die on my feet than live on my knees, and I do not intend to go gentle into that good night. If we're not careful, we could actually live until we die."
In every age group, there are whiners, unhappy folks with no vision or vitality, unimaginative souls who cannot see past the next meal or task.
But the opposite is also true. My wife and I met a retired schoolteacher in Budapest last July while attending the World Congress on Aging.
The woman, in her mid-70s, had just toured St. Petersburg, Russia. She travels to college campuses all over the United States taking courses with Elderhostel and has even been abroad with a group of age peers who like to paint watercolors.
She is proof that transcending the sometimes painful losses of old age often produces a high level of spirituality, revealing joy and new accomplishment in being alive.
A healthy spirit, however, is only half of the lesson. Nurturing physical well-being is also possible and necessary.
Some older adults choose to die with their boots on, and they should be role models, too.
Anyone who intends, like my acquaintance in Budapest, to enjoy a creative retirement or feel good as long as he is around should get to know someone now who is doing it.
The big surprise is that they are all around us, these potential mentors. But we youth-oriented Americans allow our ageist stereotypes to filter them out.
We just don't see them. We should begin to look right now.
Reading about those strong, interesting, resourceful older women of Southern literature is a way to begin rec-og-nizing the goodness of years. The characters of Flannery O'Connor or Eudora Welty shock our notions of meaningless old age.
Going to an art history slide show on the old-age style of Michelangelo and Titian illustrates that older adults can continue to be creative throughout their lives.
Next, calling Elderhostel or similar places yields numerous resources for positive aging activities.
Finally, visiting or calling the Center for Creative Retirement at the University of North Carolina at Asheville reveals how lifelong learning, leadership and community service provide a new way for enjoying retirement.