Columnist Phil Burgess has been writing about aging for the past several years, and has just reached his 151st edition of his column “Bonus Years,” in which he expresses his thoughts on the subject of aging in America.
Looking back over the past 150 stories, Burgess reflected on the remarkably diverse themes that have emerged in his column, running the gamut of ideas about aging. Most apparent is that the Golden Years are years are not necessarily filled with non-stop hours of leisure and amusement. Although there are some who follow the “Golden Path” as they age, basically age is not a good predictor of how people live, what they do, and how they spend the majority of their time.
Burgess’ stories clearly provide evidence of an aging population actively engaged in just about every activity and lifestyle possible, regardless of age. He told stories about people in retirement communities with full and part-time jobs; volunteering; people beginning new businesses; operating non-profit organizations, and more.
Many are expanding their dedication to life-long hobbies- from woodworking and toy-making to gardening, sailing and recreational vehicle touring. Others are expanding their minds by reading and reflection, learning a new language, or taking classes in subjects that interest them. Some older people are writing their autobiographies; some just for the pleasure of it, and others to hand down to their heirs as a way to enrich them with knowledge of their roots.
Burgess quotes Alexis de Tocqueville in Democracy in America: “The health of a democratic society may be measured by the quality of functions performed by private citizens.” Burgess states that, “If Tocqueville were to return to America today, I think he would be impressed to find that family, non-profits and the level of government closest to the people are the key players addressing one of the top challenges of our time: rapidly increasing longevity and how to achieve successful aging in a flourishing society.”