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Cher Still Looks Fabulous at 60

By Jim Winchester, Vice Chief Justice
Supreme Court of Oklahoma

As I read the article about Boomers turning 60, I was reminded we have had about 40 years of adult life experience pass before we begin again at 60. But, it took 60 years of living. Eric Erickson, Gail Sheehy in Passages, and Daniel Levinson in The Seasons of a Man’s Life, and countless others have made observations about adult development. They have given us a roadmap of the tasks of aging after high school.

As a college student, you’re required to choose classes, majors and a degree. Strangely, society asks you to choose a career before you enter the job market. College is as much about understanding yourself as it is about getting a degree. We gatored and shouted our way through college to tunes like “House of the Rising Sun.” We lived in or next door to “Animal House,” rode Harleys and bought “Easy Rider” black light posters. I understand now why it took five years. This is a time of great exploration. We searched for a mate, a first job, and we made new friends. The big question was: Who am I?

The law became our venue to practice what college prepared us to do. We began the “paying our dues stage” of career. In our late 20s and early 30s our task was to become competent lawyers in the eyes of the partners and the judges. We forged a commitment to our firm, putting in long hours as an associate striving to become a partner. Building intimacy in our family became our goal.

Our late 30s and throughout our 40s was a time of rediscovery. While we began this stage with enthusiasm and confidence, the end may have been marked by doubt and indecision. There were challenges and many difficult times. We asked some critical questions. Am I doing what I am supposed to do? Is it too late to change jobs, change spouses, or move to Mexico and live on the beach?

The 50s find us with enough life experiences that we tend to take a break and reflect more. Most of us have children in college who are taking steps to find their own identity. As their parents, we begin the stage of generativity. If those Lazy Boys begin to look inviting, and you want one in your living room, you have arrived in the reclining years. We find a need to give back to the next generation. We are consultants to younger associates. We become mentors and coaches.

Sheehan describes this time as the period we reinvent ourselves. We learn to ski, complete the Vo-Tech woodworking class and begin ballroom dancing classes. We ask ourselves is it too late for a new career. It is a time of mastery of career and self. We ask: If I could do it all over again, what would I change? That’s why life begins at 60.

This whole process of life reminds me of taking my infant son to the pediatrician. I asked the doctor what makes babies roll over from their back to their stomach. She laughed and said, “we don’t really know, but I think it’s because they get tired of being in the same place.” They need a change of view.