Getting Older Means Getting Better

Getting Older Means Getting Better

by Susan Dibble of the Daily Herald

Thomas L. Hardin figures his grandfather must have been in his late 50s or early 60s, but he seemed older.

"Tommy," he remembers his grandfather saying to him, "if I'd known I was going to live this long, I would have taken better care of myself."

That shouldn't be the excuse of anyone today, according to Hardin, author of "Never Too Old to Rock & Roll: Life After 50—The Best Years Yet."

"Life expectancy now is 80 and it's getting higher," he said. "We're the first group who has known we're going to live a long time and known we're going to be healthy."

Hardin will sign books and discuss his belief that the years after 50 can be the most satisfying yet from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday at Barnes and Noble Booksellers, 47 E. Chicago Ave., Naperville.

Store manager Randy Poole said there'll be plenty of time to ask questions. "I heard he's a very interesting person. It's going to be a more interactive thing," he said.

Anyone who envisions the later third of life as doctors' visits, nursing homes, loneliness and diminished income should think again, Hardin said. "Getting older doesn't mean getting worse," he said. "It can mean getting better."

Though some of the ills of old age may eventually come, they don't need to arrive nearly as soon as many people think, Hardin said.

"There is a law of diminishing returns out there, but it's not 60," he said. "I think 60s may be the best age."

A baby boomer of nearly 53 himself, Hardin believes the generational shift that will bring new attitudes toward aging actually began with the group born just before the boomers. The rock 'n' roll generation he describes are people born between 1937 and 1957.

The older group led the counterculture revolution in areas like civil rights, feminism and rock - and baby boomers jumped on the bandwagon, he said. Now the two groups together will redefine what becoming older means, Hardin said. Unlike their parents and grandparents whose memories of the Great Depression and World War II left them cautious and worried about the future, the rock 'n' roll generation takes a more optimistic approach.

"We're a creative, innovative generation that is more into quality of life issues," he said.

But making the years after 50 the best yet doesn't come without planning and effort, Hardin said.

His own pondering of the second half of his life started at the age of 48. A resident of Zionsville, Ind., he hired a life coach in California and met with him on a quarterly basis for four years.

Hardin said he considers having a life coach critical to planning life after 50.

"I think it's very important to get coaching in all aspects of our lives," he said.

A compelling vision of the future, a sense of health and vitality, and financial freedom are the key ingredients to enjoying life to the fullest, Hardin said.

A compelling vision goes beyond setting goals to finding out one's passions, he said. He even suggests people in their 50s or 60s take a sabbatical to do that.

"First find out what it is that puts you in the endorphin zone. The endorphin zone is when you are fully engaged and in the moment," he said.

For some people that may mean leaving the corporate world and starting their own business, turning a hobby into an income producer or retraining for a second career, Hardin said.

Health and vitality also are essential and more obtainable than ever before, Hardin said. With new medical technology, fitness training, and proper diet and nutrition people can expect to live longer and healthier.

Hardin, a chief executive officer and chief investment officer of a financial group, also says that financial resources are necessary to enjoying the good things of life. But personal wealth goes beyond money, he said.

"The purpose is to create financial freedom to pursue fulfilling and compelling experiences," he said.

"You've got to create the possibility of things to happen. You have to have some net worth there."

Hardin, who interviewed more than 200 people for his book, acknowledges it is geared to the more affluent. Some people may be content to work at jobs, develop outside interests and look forward to retirement, he said.

But he said for many, retirement will become a mute word. Though they may leave their full-time careers, they'll continue to work even if it's on a part-time basis or in another field.

"What I'm finding, people who can retire, after they do it, they don't like it," he said.