An American Editor

August 30, 2019

On the Basics — About getting older

Filed under: Editorial Matters — An American Editor @ 9:21 am

By Ruth E. Thaler-Carter, Owner, An American Editor

Inspired by a colleague’s request to write about birthdays, I came up with a few thoughts that I posted to my NAIWE blog, and thought colleagues here might enjoy this version as well. While not specifically about editing, the topic is relevant to all of us.

Here I am in my 60s, and not quite sure what it means — but not worried about it.

Supposedly I’m old — but I don’t feel old. Of course, it helps that I seem to still be mentally intact and involved, can still look after myself, continue to be able to do the work I love — work that keeps me involved with a wide range of topics and people, constantly learning new skills and information. I think it also helps that I have a marvelous network of long-time friends who keep me feeling young, perhaps because we keep our wacky childhood and high school memories so fresh by staying close and seeing, or at least communicating with, each other fairly often.

Even if I did feel old, why would that be a bad thing? I’ve survived more than just the passing of the years, but a wide range of crises over those years, and that’s something to be proud of. It’s why I don’t let myself be pressured into coloring my hair when I go to the salon for haircuts (well, other than a splash of purple nowadays!): I earned every gray or white hair, and see no need to cover them up.

I know how I got here: born, raised, lived; still living. That’s a good thing. As my mom used to say whenever someone complained about the infelicities and challenges of increasing age, “Consider the alternative.”

Some aspects of all these birthdays are a nuisance — my knees and hips have started to creak a bit and make it difficult to get up from a chair or the bed, and to negotiate stairs, but … consider the alternative.

Getting older does mean dealing with loss. Both of my parents have died, and I miss them constantly, but … I had my dad in my life for more than 40 years and my mom for 60; that’s a lot longer than many friends can claim, and those were all wonderful, loving, supportive, fun years — also more and better than many people experience. And it’s natural for parents to go before their children. When life takes the opposite direction, it’s unimaginable.

My beloved husband, who was 12 years older than me, died last year and I miss him every moment of every day, but … we had 30 delightful years together, which is — again — more than many people get from their relationships and marriages. He was a tough guy (a retired steelworker; my man of steel!) who accepted the limits of aging with surprising grace; rather than complain (“Consider the alternative!”) or give up, he focused on what he still could do. His attitude toward birthdays, aging and increasing fragility was admirable: “I can’t do what I used to, but I’ll find a way to do as much as possible. If I can’t walk on my own, I’ll use a walker so I can still get around and go places. If I can’t carry all my cameras, lenses and gear, I’ll switch to digital. If I have dietary issues, I’ll reconfigure my favorite recipes so I can still enjoy some of the things I love to eat …”

Keeping in mind that increasing age probably will mean decreasing physical ability, I made a huge life change last year. What started out as thinking about moving locally to a neighborhood that would be more walkable and accessible turned into moving halfway across the country and becoming a first-time homeowner at this ripe age! While my new place — a condo — doesn’t have the front desk and onsite staff of the building I left, it is right across the street from a beautiful park and within two to five blocks of everything from shops to restaurants to a library branch, small concert venue, bookstore, medical center and more. I’m prepared for pretty much anything; I even have a dedicated guest room in case I ever need live-in care, instead of having to use a second bedroom as my workspace. That’s because the front room of my new space faces the beautiful Forest Park, and I’ve set up half of that area as my home office so I can enjoy and benefit from the green view as I work.

Being “old” has its advantages. I qualify for Medicare, so I save a bundle on medical insurance, and can start getting my Social Security benefits whenever I’m ready to stop working (if that ever happens; I do find retirement hard to envision, but that’s because I enjoy what I do, and not — mainly thanks to my financial genius of a mom — because I have to keep working). And I get a kick out of senior discounts, even though I don’t see myself as “senior.” (My recollection, although my brothers disagree, is that my dad loved using his 60-plus discounts; he said he earned and deserved them, and I concur.)

I see every birthday as a type of new year, so I have more than January 1 as a moment to reflect, refresh and sometimes revamp. A birthday is an opportunity to celebrate still being here and to think about what new things I might do to stay as sharp, engaged and active as possible, both physically and mentally; socially and professionally; intellectually and maybe even emotionally. This year, I decided that my birthday present to myself would to be more creative and expand my interests beyond activities related to my work life. I’ve started playing around with painting and glasswork — neither of which I do very well (yet), but who knows where these might go! — and am looking into going back to a long-ago hobby of ceramics.

These projects are birthday gifts to myself that I think will take me into increasing age with increasing creativity and continuing mental and physical agility, a sense of joy and achievement, and appreciation for survival on many levels. They are my ways of fulfilling the concept of “I’m not (just) getting older; I’m getting better.” As actress Renée Zellweger told the AARP magazine (yup, I’m an AARP member) recently, “… I don’t call it aging; I call it winning.” I like that perspective. I try to embrace getting older and having more birthdays. After all, “consider the alternative.”

Here’s to happy birthdays for all of us, and graceful, grateful perspectives on getting older!

Ruth E. Thaler-Carter ( is an award-winning provider of editorial and publishing services for publications, independent authors, publishers, associations, nonprofits and companies worldwide, and the editor-in-chief and — as of 2019 — owner of An American Editor. She also hosts the annual Communication Central “Be a Better Freelancer”® conference for colleagues (, this year co-hosted with the National Association of Independent Writers and Editors ( She can be reached at or


  1. Thank you for this encouraging and enlightening article.


    Comment by Nanaharper — August 30, 2019 @ 10:01 am

  2. I’m in my mid-or upper 70s, Ruth (!) and agree that I’m doing what I love and taking it with grace that
    I’m walking slower! Thanks for sharing your reflections and new creative pursuits.


    Comment by Phyllis Stern — August 30, 2019 @ 10:09 am

  3. Agree 100%! You have a fab attitude and that’s the best way to make the most of your life at any age. Rock on!


    Comment by MELewis — August 30, 2019 @ 12:53 pm

  4. Ruth, I love this blog post! As a colleague fast approaching Medicare age, I’m thinking along the same lines. And the beauty of having a freelance editing business, to me, is that I can change and adapt my work life to my stages in life. We have a new grandbaby (our first!) — which has ushered in a new stage of my life.

    Regarding Social Security benefits, I tentatively plan to start taking them at my “full” retirement age — and keep working, but gradually start to cut back. Full SS retirement age is the age at which you can take your benefits and not get anything held back based on income, and it varies according to one’s year of birth (mine is 66 and 2 months). Of course, at age 70, one gets the max amount of benefits per month (but then one has foregone years when they could have taken lesser amount; actuarily, it often works out the same total over one’s lifetime). All things I’ve mulling over!

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Teresa Barensfeld — August 30, 2019 @ 12:54 pm

  5. Thank you for sharing a piece of your heart. It was just the thing I needed to read today after spending yesterday missing my mother on what would have been her 85th birthday.


    Comment by Elizabeth Koozmin — August 30, 2019 @ 3:28 pm

  6. Great post, Ruth! I’ve been thinking about this topic too recently. Not specifically SS and Medicare since I’m 40, but what aging means for how I edit day to day. I definitely can’t sit and type for as long or as comfortably as I could in my 20s and 30s without solid ergonomic support—raising my computer, back cushions, wrist supports, etc. I’m also bumping my screen resolution up more often, especially on proofs. I could be sad about these changes (and I admit I’ve thrown myself a few pity parties here and there!), but I’ve actually been pleasantly surprised by all the cool tools out there to accommodate them that I didn’t know about. Like right now I’m trying to cut down on typing with shortcuts and dictation, and it turns out my PC and MS Word have a ton of voice command capabilities already baked in—who knew?

    All this to say, age and its effects are something we editors should _all_ be thinking about, not just the “senior” editors among us. And that age can come with even more perks than the wisdom and discounts! 😉


    Comment by Anitra Budd — August 30, 2019 @ 3:43 pm

  7. Age has been on my mind a lot lately. I turned 50 last year. One of my main goals for attending this year’s EFA conference in Chicago was to explore where I want to go with my career now that I have 20 years under my belt and feel more confident in my abilities. It gave me a good start at seeing the possibilities. And reading about how you have stayed true to who you are through life’s challenges and mundanities is inspiring.

    Being that it was my first editing conference, my other goal was to meet people, which I did in spades. Glad to finally connect with you in person.

    Jennifer Yankopolus


    Comment by — August 30, 2019 @ 10:56 pm

  8. Wayne-the-Wonderful started taking his Social Security benefits as soon as he was eligible, figuring that could give him/us extra years even if at a lower rate, because he never expected to live long enough to reach the age of the full amount. I have a couple of friends who have made the same decision.


    Comment by An American Editor — August 31, 2019 @ 4:30 pm

    • I took Social Security early too – at 64. You’re getting more years though at
      a lower rate, and I think it works out. And anyway, I’m glad to be working
      — I’m not living just on that.


      Comment by Phyllis Stern — August 31, 2019 @ 7:14 pm

  9. Ruth,

    As someone whose birthday is in a few days, this is exactly what I needed to read. One thing I’d like to add is that we are in a profession that doesn’t seem to engage in ageism, which is something I am thankful for.

    I will approach this birthday with grace rather than dread. After all, consider the alternative!



    Comment by The Write Edit — September 2, 2019 @ 11:58 am

  10. Maybe it’s the slowing of age, but I always feel I’m a bit late to the party on these (and EFA) posts, but I enjoyed this immensely—rings true for many of us who have delved into freelance editing in the later portion of their working life.

    I thank God—or whatever the powers that be—that I have been able to blossom after I hit my late 40s (59 now) into a career I truly love, and, yes, even the annoying parts. We have to be ready to roll with what life throws at us, or risk getting run over. Me, I set out to travel for a year before figuring I’d return to the US and start my second career and, instead, I decided to keep traveling for a few years and eventually settle down abroad, something I could never have done had it not been for the internet and freelancing opportunities. (And my best friend, since I moved abroad, is a Ruth, who never stops inspiring me to grab the fruit and keep moving forward.)

    We, in this community, are all blessed. I applaud you, Ruth, for your courage and willingness to keep exploring, to keep living, to keep stretching to experience new adventures. It’s an inspiration to the rest of us that you take the time to write about it and encourage us. Thank you.


    Comment by sgyourbesteditor — September 3, 2019 @ 3:33 pm

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