Tracey Shipley
Youth, family and addictions counselor/creative therapist/band organizer and manager/event producer/writer

When I’m 64 – A Dedication to Those of Us Staying Young

Never growing old

As I turn 64 I’m thinking about the Beatles song “When I’m 64”. When I was younger, I thought it was a fun little ditty. Now I read the words and think: Man that’s NOT ME!!! I’m thank God not losing my hair, no one has to feed me, my lights aren’t gone TG!, I don’t have time to knit and I don’t believe I am wasting away.  But besides that…..

When we were kids we looked at our parents as old and generally couldn’t imagine what it would be like to be them. As most of us have heard over the past few years people say: 50 is the new 30! According to Google and this is a quote: “The general consensus is that 50 is more like the new 30. On average, 69% of women aged 45–60 reported feeling at least six years younger than their chronological age. Women in their fifties still feel sexy, vibrant, beautiful, and desirable.”  Hmmm, that’s an exciting idea.  Then comes: Is 60 the new 40? Again a Google quote: “Putting everything together, it can reasonably be stated that our “senior years” keep getting pushed further and further back. “60 is the new 40” means there is plenty of productive life ahead. The phrase implies that, if one is ready, able, and motivated, whole new aspects of living can be explored.”

I don’t know about you but my favorite author of all times is Gail Sheehy.  Her book “Passages” rocked my world as it did many of my friends.  As a Sociologist and writer, she interviewed hundreds of people mainly women about their lives from the age 18-50.  Even though she was pointing out issues and potential crises that may be met along the way, she ultimately gave hope that every stage in life can be magical.  Well, that is of course according to your attitude which is always key.  My mom for instance until she passed away at the young age of 94 woke up every morning saying “Today is going to be the BEST day of my life”.  This kept her feeling so young that when my dad took them to live in an elderly community where almost everyone was at least 10 years younger than her, she said “Jimmy, why are we here? Everyone here is an old person!”  Yep, that was my mom.

My mom with General Saad Haddad the founder and head of the South Lebanon Army (SLA) during the Lebanese Civil War. Photo by Erin Viner

Sheehy’s next book about aging was “New Passages”. “She set out to write a sequel, but instead she discovered a historic revolution in the adult life cycle” As stated in the New York Times book review. “People are taking longer to grow up and much longer to die. Stop and recalculate,” Sheehy writes. ” Instead of declining, men and women who embrace a Second Adulthood are progressing through entirely new passages into lives of deeper meaning, renewed playfulness, and creativity.”

Now this sparks a few feelings and thoughts for me. About taking longer to grow up, as an American moving to Israel initially at the age of 24, I have seen through the years the difference between Israelis growing up and Americans attempting to do the same.  In this country (Israel) a nine-year-old is talking politics on his way to go grocery shopping for his mother. American nine-year-olds aren’t allowed to cross the street by themselves, let alone go shopping for the family. And Politics? They generally don’t even know what that is or means for that matter.  The consistent situation in Israel since before its foundation has forced our young people to be exposed to harsh realities no matter where they look. Then right out of high school, our kids are inducted into the army slated with the mission to protect our country, tiny Israel surrounded by enemies. As stated in a clever Meme I just read “God said to Moses you are being given a beautiful country filled with gorgeous vistas, beaches, mountains, and more.  Moses asked: What’s the catch? God replied; wait till you meet your neighbors!”

In reference to taking longer to die, this has been debated as to whether this is a good or a bad thing.  Those who sadly decline into dementia or other life-depleting conditions can last for years after their quality of life has ended.  On the other hand, with so many options to remain productive and active many “elderly” enjoy life more than ever hopefully having cut the umbilical chord with their children and living out their childhood fantasies or simply having the time to get involved in the community contributing so much, according to their personal talents. Two great examples of “When I’m 94”: My dad volunteering three times a week as a guide at the Jewish Museum in New Orleans while maintaining his political column in two major Jewish newspapers and my friend Pnina- a Holocaust survivor spending every waking moment crocheting dolls for orphans and delivering them herself.

Pnina with her dolls Photo by Tracey Shipley

If that were not enough, twice a year the German government flies her over to Germany to speak at dozens of high schools in front of hundreds of students about her experiences during the war in addition to members of the German “Bundestag”. That, in addition to speaking to countless audiences throughout Israel of all ages.

Pnina being featured in the German newspaperThere are of course many other instances but these two are close to my heart.

Personally, I am grateful to be starting a new chapter in my life both professionally and socially, and can’t wait to see what the future brings. I’m excited to be following in my mom’s footsteps of staying young where at 64 she flew to China to live in a dorm with Japanese students for six months to learn Chinese while teaching Chinese businessmen how to speak English using her “Celebrate Every Day even if it’s just with an ice cream” attitude. My mom played what she called “Guts Football” never shying away from a challenge which was evident when she went into showbusiness with her sister Evey forming the Burton sisters and becoming one of the most well-known sweethearts of Yiddish theater in the 50s. She was invited with Evey to perform on the Dick Clark show’s first appearance on TV, traveling from USO bases to the Catskills and later brought back to be featured in a show dedicated to old-time Yiddish theater. Mom raised us as a family that catches lemons and turns them into Lemonade.  My advice to you?  Do the same and enjoy, enjoy, enjoy!

About the Author
Tracey Shipley is a youth and family counselor specializing in addictions and family communication. She was born in the US and moved to Israel in 1984 to continue her studies in Art Therapy. She moved back to the US in 1989 and began working in a drug rehab for teens where she was trained while she worked as a primary counselor. She moved back to Israel in 1996 and continued her work in addictions at the Jerusalem Methadone Clinic for a total of 9 years. She initiated projects for the children of the addicts at the Methadone Clinic, Established a program for Ethiopian Teens educating them about their culture and opened the Jerusalem School of Rock program which helps to create teen rock bands and established monthly teen music events at downtown venues where teens perform for their friends in a teen friendly exciting atmosphere. In addtion to her projects Tracey was the English Speaking Volunteer Coordinator for Emunah Jerusalem succeeding in bringing in more funds and volunteers than ever before. Tracey organizes monthly Rock Festivals and manages rock bands young and old. Tracey also writes for Times of Israel and the Jerusalem Post.
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