Mythbusting originally came from the name of a TV science show but now It’s a Thing, and not a bad one. In the past 20 years medicine has adopted an evidence-based approach to decision-making. This requires interrogating whether there is irrefutable proof for our beliefs – and busting the myths. This seems a good approach to life in general.
Not everyone supports mythbusting, as evidenced by the word-in-a-sentence example:
“Quit mythbusting, Tim. Let us believe what we want to.”
Many older people seem comfortable with this view. Late life is challenging enough, we don’t feel like confronting the myths that underpin our time-honoured modus operandi.
My New Old Self is all for mythbusting. This seems like a good time of life to do it. Inspired by this violent metaphor, I relish striking blows at conventional wisdom demolishing notions that seem comforting – but may ultimately prove oppressive.
It can be empowering to determine how much of what we have come to believe about aging is myth rather than fact. Because myths can lead us in unproductive and even dangerous directions. At this stage of our lives, we do not need fruitless diversions.
So here are a few myths around aging that need busting…
Your 50th birthday heralds your entry into the second half of life.
Just do the maths and you’ll be forced to concede that this is a myth. Most older people reached their life’s midpoint awhile ago. Seeing 50 as a halfway mark may be comforting, but unless you are confident of becoming a centenarian, it should probably be seen as a signal of nearing the two-thirds mark in your life.
Our inability to calculate the exact percentage of our lives that we have used to date is something we all have in common (excepting those who have been given a legal or medical death sentence). So we may find it liberating to bust this myth around life’s second half and supposed midpoint. It can help encourage that Living In The Moment thing that is so highly recommended.
Now is the time of life for quick and easy changes to become the person you always wanted to be.
This myth is rooted in the midlife myth busted above. Advice like this annoyingly promises effortless transformation in later years: “You can believe [turning 50, menopause, etc] signals the end, or you can make a few small changes to finally become the person you always thought you could be.” That is a quote from a book entitled The Second Half of Your Life by Jill Shaw Ruddock.
This book claims that, as from your 50s, you can easily tweak your present flawed self and become your long envisioned perfect self. Please note that labelling this a myth is based on the book’s title, blurb and that quote. Even if I thought My New Old Self was tweakable, it’s a bit late to read the book now (according to my calculations).
Your offspring will treasure all they inherit from you.
You won’t be around to test whether this is myth or truth. However, there seems abundant evidence that the younger generation is less enthused by family heirlooms and memorabilia than we are. Their focus is brand names and recent models. So you may be better off sorting your stuff yourself, while you’re still around and able to do it. Google “de-clutter”, there is an industry out there ready to offer you tips.
Once you have de-cluttered, you will have a better idea of what you aim to give away. Whether you want to do so immediately, or after your passing, you can enquire personally from your future heirs whether they actually want what you plan to give or leave to them. You may find that they “prefer cash”.
Life is a journey, not a destination.
This is a myth that gets endlessly trotted out in musings about life and its milestones. Life is not a journey. It is a destination – which you reached via your mama’s birth canal when you arrived in this world. The only destination you are now headed towards is… Well, you can see why this comforting myth is bandied about.
It should be noted that this quote I have subjected to mythbusting is from Ralph Waldo Emerson. I am a big fan of the American philosopher and poet so perhaps his is a semantic point. Maybe the over-arching issue is about denialism around aging, and mortality.
After busting the myths it is important to affirm – or discover – what we do believe about life, instead of the myths. Back to Emerson, he offers me something to believe in with this simple advice:
“Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Learn from it. Tomorrow is a new day.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson