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Ann Bailey: Milestone birthday is a time for reflection

Ann Bailey

While we were visiting over coffee the other day my friend Bette asked me if I had any thoughts on my upcoming birthday. Both of us will be turning the big 6-0 in the next several weeks. I will mark the milestone next week and, she, next month.

I told her that turning 60 made me feel old. After all, the decade of the 60s ushers in things like retirement, Medicare and Social Security benefits. Then there's the bigger issue of mortality. I noted to her that the past 25 years has passed in a flash and before I knew it, I'd be 85—if I made it that far—and then what?

Those are the initial musings I had when Bette asked the question. Then reason kicked and I told her that, of course, we never know what the future holds and I could live another day or I could live to be 110 and that the most important thing is to make the most of every day and the people who are part of it. I am fortunate that I live with the people who are energetic. My family's high level of activity, combined with the responsibility of taking care of animals and volunteer work makes it doubtful that spending my senior years sitting on the couch for extended periods of time is likely.

Get moving

It's not that some days, especially when the weather turns cold, that a blanket and the TV remote control don't feel like my best friends. Curling up on the sofa with the dogs and binge- watching Hallmark movies is an attractive option. In fact, I was settling in to do just last Sunday when Ellen asked me if I wanted to go to Turtle River State Park to hike with her, our exchange student Sophia, and the dogs. I sighed, reluctantly set my blanket aside and told her "yes." Although the couch was calling my name, I knew that it was better for my health—physical and mental—and for the dogs to get out and do some brisk walking on the park trails.

I was right. Ellen, Sophia and I alternately talked, laughed and took in the beauty of the park while our golden retrievers Rosebud and Casey and our Lab-mix Alfred trotted along the trails, sniffing for deer.

Active is attractive

Our 40-minute walk energized me the same way that going outside first thing in the morning and late in the afternoon and feeding the horses and chickens in the sub-freezing—and often subzero—days of winter do. And the way that gardening, riding horseback and baling straw do in the spring, summer and fall.

Besides the physical activity, volunteering at church, school and for charitable organizations, writing stories and columns and continuing to dig deeper into my Catholic faith will keep me mentally and spiritually active As I reflected more on my upcoming milestone birthday, I realized it a gift to reach it and a challenge not to let a number stop me from doing the things I've done for the last several decades. Bring on 60.