Is there life after 50?

Feb. 02, 2013 @ 08:40 PM

This week, I heard a teaser on a local news channel asking the question, “Is there life after 50?” I was intrigued by the question but not enough to listen through 20 minutes of explaining the dangers of empty milk jugs and the benefits if eating raw soy beans.

Of course, I believe I have the answer. Yes, there is life after 50 and I personally believe it’s the best time to be alive, provided you don’t decide to quit living. I have been past the 50 mark for over ten years now. Most of the friends I grew up with are becoming retirement age every month. I’m having more fun than I did at 40 or 30. Those of us who’ve figured it out are loving the time we have because we know the value of it. This week, I talked to a friend, Joe Clodfelter. Joe and I were in first grade together. We deer hunted together when we were 20 and we’re still fast friends. Joe recently ended his career in the workforce.
When we talked this week, he’d been working on building a shed. He’s looking forward to us getting to hunt turkeys together this year. We tried to get a trip together last year, but we couldn’t make it work because he was off on weekends and that’s when I’m busiest teaching shooting. This year will be different. Joe is doing the stuff he loves to do and he’s enjoying it. There’s more advantage to becoming a senior than fifty cent coffee at Hardee’s.
Our generation (and I know many who read this are of the same generation as Joe and I) has learned how to live. It takes a while to learn this. It isn’t something you can explain to a younger person. I remember people trying to explain it to me and I’ve tried to explain it to those younger than I. What you learn through the experience of living 50 years isn’t transferable. I can’t transfer my experience to another person and I think I do a great job of communication. It’s a lesson you must learn for yourself.
I think I caught on a little earlier than some. I remember realizing the value of life one particular winter morning in a canoe on the John’s River. It was a defining moment in my life and I often tell the story when I speak to groups of people. In my mid forties, I began to get what life was all about and, I hope I continue to grow in my understanding.
I’m saddened that it’s so hard to make a younger person understand what makes living this life so special. It’s even more saddening to see those my age and older who seem to have never learned in spite of their life experience. Life isn’t about how much money you make or how much your car cost. Life is about living out the time God gave you in the best way you possibly can.
I know fully that I don’t have dozens of years before my time here will end, but I also know that while I’m here there’s a lot of life to live. I see people every day who are my age or younger who seem to have lost their zest for life and given up. I suspect the producer or personality who came up with the story line for the Is there Life After 50? segment thought giving up was the prevailing sentiment. I know for some it is, but for many, who are older than 50 and 60 and even 70 and 80 there’s a lot of life left to savor.
When I was offered my first newspaper column in the Thomasville Times, I was told to come up with a name for my column. I remembered a popular tee shirt/bumper sticker from a few years back that stated “You can’t run with the big dogs, if you stay on the porch.” It occurred to me when I read this that it had been my mantra as a competitive shooter. I never won any national championships and I’m certainly not a famous shooter, but I won my share of medals and matches. I knew I had no special talent but I also knew that, provided I worked at it, I could win. It worked. I went with “Off the Porch” and I try to live up to my brand.
There are folks who leave their jobs at retirement time and hit the couch. If that’s what you really enjoy, I suppose it’s the right thing to do, but the people I see who are really enjoying their later years are living like they did when they were forty or less, maybe a little slower, but still active and having fun.
Provided you stay in shape, you can do almost anything at 60 you did at 30. You might be slower at some things or too smart to  try others, but almost anything I did at 30, I do now. I’m still involved in most of the activities I pursued when I was 30. The exception is racing motorcycles and I was never very good at that anyway. The key, of course is to stay in shape or get in shape.
Maybe I should have listened through the segments of milk jugs and soybeans, but I think I already knew the answer whether the TV show got it  right or not. If you haven’t reached 50 yet, take care of yourself and look forward to it. If you have reached 50 and you aren’t enjoying it, get out there and do something. If you’re past 50 and enjoying it like Joe and me, I don’t need to tell you anything; you already know.

Dick Jones is an award winning freelance writer living in High Point. He’s a member of the board of directors of the Southeastern Outdoor Press Association. He writes about hunting, fishing, dogs, and shooting for several N.C. newspapers as well as national magazines and websites. He’s fished both fresh and salt water most of his life.  If you’d like to have him speak to your group, he can be reached at offtheporch52@yahoo.com.