By BILL YEE
“If I had known I was going to live so long, I’d have taken better care of myself.” — 70-year-old editorial columnist Billy Noonan, Minnesota Sunday Tribune, September 1951
Recently as I reflected on turning the big “7-0,” I came to a few conclusions about life that are not necessarily original. I believe most of us have different life circumstances and duties as we age through the decades. Remember that best-seller in the ’70s, “Passages” by Gail Sheehy?
In your 20s the world is your oyster! You may be in a relationship thinking about marriage. Your life opportunities seem to be endless and life is a new adventure every day. You travel and don’t mind roughing it. Staying in a youth hostel is as good as a five-star hotel.
In your 30s you begin to establish your professional life. If you have kids, there are the sleepless nights and all the work that comes with a newborn and a toddler or two. You have to remember to transfer the car seat from one car to the other and flying means carrying half the house with you to the airport.
By your 40s you are pretty much set in your career and may be getting into management positions or at least in a leadership position. You are the Uber driver for your kid’s activities and are busy most weekends with baseball, soccer, piano, dance, basketball, etc.
At this point you may have this mid-life crisis. Among other things it may mean a new job or a change in careers. This might be as a result of a company merger, corporate downsizing, or economic recession resulting in a loss of a job!
My father-in-law once said if you are going to change your profession or job do, it in your 40s while you still have the energy. I did this by moving to the high school from middle school with the opportunity to engage in new challenges.
In your 50s one or two of the kids go off to college. You may experience the empty-nest syndrome, meaning you really have to talk to your spouse about other things besides the kids.
More importantly, you probably will have to balance your daily life with elder care. This is also when you start getting interested in contributing more to your 401k or IRA. You are counting and planning for the years before retirement! A big question is whether you have enough saved to have a comfortable retirement.
The 60s may bring a marriage or two of your kids and maybe the first grandchild. You are wondering what you are going to do after you retire. You have a bucket list to check off!
In your 70s good health is the major blessing. Realizing that based on the average life expectancy, you may have, with luck and God’s grace, about 10-15 years of a good quality of life.
Unlike the song, we are not “forever young!” This is a time to accept your physical limitations. A friend of mine observed that up to his 60s he was still able to do a lot of things physically. But once he turned 70, he began to slow down. He told me to appreciate my 60s and early retirement!
So, what are some of these limitations? For example, not driving at night because you can’t see the lines that mark the roads. Walking for exercise instead of running to save the knees. Playing doubles in tennis or pickleball. Staying off ladders and having the kids carry the heavy items. More importantly, letting them do all the driving on long road trips.
One of my recent activities that I treasure is the weekly Zoom meeting I have with my college roommates. It’s like we are still having a midnight bull session at our Berkeley apartment. We really don’t talk about anything important and like old guys we rehash old memories and brag about our kids. These sessions helped me deal with the isolation during the height of COVID!
The 70s is a time to smell the roses! I want to treasure each day, enjoy the moment however routine it might be. Appreciate my friends and family. I want to age gracefully but also to look forward to the new adventures that life might bring!
Recently I read an article about a Japanese American man who turned 100 in November 2022. Roke Fukumura was born in Santa Barbara. His mother passed when he was young so his father raised him and his siblings. He worked hard on his father’s farm and played semi-pro baseball at the age of 14!
During the war the family was sent to Poston, where he served as a cook and played baseball after work. Roke was married in 1954 and not long after found himself assuming the role as a single dad to two children, much like his father. He had a successful career in produce. To this day he continues to work at Tri-County Produce in Santa Barbara.
Addendum: If you would like to read the full article on the fascinating life of Roke Fukumura, a link to the article is included here. He has really had an interesting 100 years!
(Or you can Google “Roke Fukumura Century Man.”)
Secondly, as a testament to the power of The Rafu, KCBS Radio News producer Johanna Miyaki in San Francisco interviewed me on-air Christmas Day after she read my column! It was another 15 seconds of fame for being born on Christmas Day!
Bill Yee is a retired Alhambra High School history teacher. He can be reached at email@example.com. Opinions expressed are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.
Always enjoy your column, especially since we’re both originally from San Francisco and even went to the same elementary school, Raphael Weill, although I was there in 1941. Enjoy your 70’s!