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Turning 65.

medicare cardThis Wednesday, October 11, I will be “celebrating” my 65th birthday. Based on this milestone, I have now signed up for and started receiving Medicare. At an earlier time in life, my younger self viewed 65-year-olds as yesterday’s news–as old, tired seniors in their last lap of life.  My younger professional self also viewed 65-year-olds in the workplace as irrelevant relics. Since I worked the first 25 years of my professional life as an “ad guy”, I can be partially excused for these small minded thoughts. There were few 65-year-olds at my ad agencies. Maybe the “Chairman” or “Chairman Emeritus”. And a 65-year old consultant? What could they know about today’s world, I thought. Put them on an ice float and ship them downstream. The ad business was for the young, and I was young and accomplished. Young VP (age 26), Senior VP (age 32), President of an ad agency (age 36). Member of Young Presidents Organization (YPO).  I was young & hot stuff, or so I thought.

So how did I get old(er)? The answer is simple: Time has passed. But at the same time, I got wiser. Time and experience helps here too. My earlier self thought that I knew it all. My older self knows how little I truly know, and that’s OK, because now I Know What I Don’t Know (which is plenty).

On my 65th birthday, I truly do not view myself as old. I exercise daily, play basketball –modestly– in a league on Thursday nights, go to concerts (yes mostly Dead shows, Steely Dan etc.). I still work as a consultant and plan to continue to do so until my health or clients have gone away. Actually, my work is important because it forces me to stay current on trends and not become the guy reminiscing about commercial shoots on the Polaroid account in the 80s. I also do not want to live in a 55+ community, or identify in any way as a senior, (except when discounts for seniors are available–then I am all over them)

But I also know I have changed as I have gotten older. While I know I am wiser than when I was younger, I have also become more grumpy and less patient, and patience was never a personal strength. I have now also been married to my wife Beth for 40 years, and counting. That’s a long time, with more years to come. Obviously our marriage has evolved over time as well. Everyone’s does. We are not the same people we were when we were younger.

In terms of family, our children are now professionals and successful in their own right. Carolyn (28) is a Marketing Manager at MSG Networks, and Carl (23) is an Analyst in the Strategy & Analysis group at Digitas in NY. That our children both work in NYC and have marketing jobs is probably in large part because of my influence, though we surely would be proud of them in any direction they took. But we are proud of them and excited for their futures.

But I am not crazy about aging. I can’t dunk a basketball (actually never could). While I am healthy, I do sometimes feel the discomforts of an aging body, though. Weight control has been a lifetime struggle though I am proud that I am 20 pounds lighter than the guy who turned 64 a year ago.

In the end, another birthday, regardless of a milestone one, is merely another tick on the aging clock. I hope to continue to have long and productive life. Social Security (which I have not taken as yet and will probably delay until 70) indicates that a 65-year old man will live to 84.4, so I guess I have 19.4 years left, on average. I hope to beat the average.

Regardless, there will be no woulda/coulda/shoulda. We make our decisions and, for the most part, we are all in control of our lives based on those decisions. While we all face obstacles along the way, the dignity and courage in which we face them determines the quality of our existence. From a financial perspective I have always ascribed to the strategy of living within one’s means. That works for everyone regardless of your economic strata. For the most part, I also think I have generally made wise decisions, but in life can’t second guess the ones you blew anyhow, just go forward.

Though I have reached a significant “senior” milestone, and have entered the demo of 65+, which is relevant to few marketers (other than senior living, cruises, and drugs), I am hoping for many intellectually and physically healthy years ahead.

Happy birthday to me. Long may I run.

PS: Rock stars dying of drug overdoses and motorcycle accidents in the 70s made me bummed. Rock stars dying of natural causes today makes me feel old and scared.




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28 Comments

  1. Nancy says:

    Lonnie -nice post! thanks for sharing honestly and with an open heart.

  2. Bob Linden says:

    Great blog Lonny!! As I’m writing this, Yanks up 6-3. Hope you are enjoying the game!!

  3. Michael Bienstock says:

    Nice article Lonny. Take Social Security now!

    Happy Birthday in advance.

    Best Regards,
    Michael

  4. Bernard Dagenais says:

    As someone who has a few years to go before hitting your age milestone, I want to thank you for sharing your insights and a fine piece of writing.

  5. Lonny:

    Happy birthday!! I loved your post and reflection on what many of us who are charging ahead think about and experience. You share your day with my special colleague Suzanne. You are both in good company!!
    Therese

  6. Mike Crowther says:

    Happy Birthday, Lonny.
    As you know, I turned 65 today also.
    Interestingly, both of my daughters also followed my general career path: one is a veterinarian and the other is a McKinney Fellow at The Nature Conservancy. And I also find myself increasingly grumpy and more inclined to value experience over talent and energy!
    I’ve announced that I’m retiring in two more years, and next week our Board will vote to approve a succession plan. I suppose that my greatest arrogance is not only steering the boat while I’m at the wheel, but also trying to set its course for after I’ve gone ashore! My last two years on the job will be spent on strategy and mentoring, and like with my daughters, I hope that I’ll achieve at least a little bit of immortality through others.
    Stay well, happy, and adventurous, Lonny!

    • Lonny Strum says:

      You can tell the Board you know a “young guy in NJ” with many of your qualities who can move to Indy in 2 years to run the operation. Or perhaps not.

  7. Jo-Anne Levy-Lamoreaux says:

    Lonnie – wonderfully stated! You’ve got me by a month (11/11) albeit I’m happily retired. Happy birthday!

  8. Bill McCusker says:

    Well said, Lonnie. Filled with wisdom and good perspective as always. Happy birthday from a fellow 65er.

  9. Dave Kelble says:

    Lonny -

    Happy Birthday! I always look forward to your very insightful Strummings! Keep up the good work!

    Dave

  10. Sharon Rossi says:

    Happy Birthday Lonny!

    You, my friend are a youngster but I too am grateful for all that i am still able to do physically, intellectually and emotionally – not always easy but absolutely always worth the effort.

    Have a wonderful year. I still owe you lunch.

    Shar

  11. ks says:

    First and most importantly, Lonny, sincere Happy Birthday to you. Long may your flag wave.

    I’m reminded of a quote by the late baseball player & announcer Joe Garagiola: “Being traded is like celebrating your 100th birthday. It may not be the happiest occasion in the world, but consider the alternative.” Thanks, Joe!

    In less than two years I enter the 50-Club. According to my wife, everyone can rest assured that my path to grumpy senility will be a very smooth transition.

  12. Paul Decker says:

    Nice piece and quite similar to my thinking when I turned 65 nearly nine years ago. So, what’s my life expectancy as I look 74 in the eye two months from now…and what will the impact on that be should the Yankees go home after tonight’s game. Enjoy your big day! And Go Bronx Bombers!

  13. Michael Elkisch says:

    Happy Birthday Lonny from the smokey left coast. We’re in Northern Cal on the peninsula just south of San Fran. I turned 65 back in Aug and was glad to get away from the individual mkt of health insurance. I mention the fires because there is always a situation worse than your own. I’m in eldercare these days and again 65 and healthy is much better than those I care for. So the key is keep things in context and never stop rooting for the Yankees! Regards to Beth, hopefully she remembers me.

  14. Lynn Hoban says:

    Lonny:
    Happy Birthday to you! My favorite part of your blog was the ice float. Please allow me to give you the first push. Just kidding! I am glad to have spent the last 27 years together with you. You are a great mentor and a wonderful friend. I look forward to the next 19.4+ years with you.
    Lynn Hoban

    • Lonny Strum says:

      Gotta give creative credit to our friend Tracy Donofry for the ice float reference. Many thanks. I am planning on more than 19.4 years anyhow.

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