Time to recalculate how we think about getting older

Rachel Weishuhn

Every once in a while you meet someone who makes you think about how the world is changing.

Rachel Weishuhn did just that for me.

Maybe you saw her letter to the editor Wednesday. If you missed it, here it is:

In 2010 I applied to work for the Census Bureau.

I took their required exam. My score was among the highest.

I was not hired.

I was 89 years old.

Don’t think I will apply for 2020.

Rachel Weishuhn

Port Charlotte

I laughed, as I assume many of you did when you read her letter. But hidden behind the laughter is a real fact.

The way we age and the things we do as we age are changing.

The number of adults older than 65 years old will double to more than 71 million by 2030. People aged 85 and older are the fastest growing segment. Baby Boomers number 77 million today, including the youngest Boomers. However, chronological age is an ineffective method for describing this demographic because a person at age 85 can retain the functional capacity of a person at age 45.

I gave Rachel a call to get more info about her encounter with the U.S. Census.

“Yes, they told me I had one of the highest scores in the area. That’s why I was surprised when I didn’t receive a call,” she told me.

I wondered if at 89 she would have had the stamina to walk around and knock on doors counting her fellow Americans? She set me straight on that pretty quick.

“At the time I was traveling all over the globe and playing golf several times a week.”

Rachel is an example of how people in their 80s can do things that seemed impossible for folks in their 60s just a few decades ago. Remember mandatory retirement age policies that many companies had in place? When you hit 65 years old you were shown the door whether you wanted to retire or not.

Those days are gone.

People live longer than ever before, and our cognitive abilities remain intact longer, too.

There is a piece in today’s Perspective section titled “Is 75 the new 65?” It concludes that wealthy countries like the U.S. need to rethink what it means to be old.

My new friend Rachel, the jilted Census taker, is now 96 years old and is no longer globetrotting but she keeps her days filled “keeping the house up, tending to my flowers and plants. I read historical novels and mysteries. I write letters to my friends a lot, too. Oh, and I like to chase men,” she proudly told me.

Rachel wrote me back later in the day asking me not to mention the “chasing men” part of our conversation.

“The Port Charlotte Methodist Church might excommunicate me!”

Not a chance, Rachel. Not a chance.

Jim Gouvellis is Executive Editor of Sun Newspapers. He is 61 years old and Rachel Weishuhn is his new hero. You can reach Jim at 941-206-1134 or Jim.Gouvellis@yoursun.com

Jim will be happy to discuss anything about this topic with you. Just don’t ask him for Rachel’s phone number.

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