We once did a survey and found that among people who read AGEIST, the fear of irrelevance exceeded that of dying. That’s right, the majority of us would rather be dead than be irrelevant. We spend a considerable amount of time here on the first part of that survey: staying alive. So let’s spend a few minutes on what all of you have told us is even more important: relevance. What we are about to suggest may come off as some tough love to some of you, but we feel you can handle it.
If you are in a social situation, and I mean with anyone, including your significant other, if you are telling some story that is more than a couple of years old, there is an excellent chance that you have told it before, and that the person on the receiving end is politely nodding their head, but is actually bored to tears. Don’t do it. Resist the urge to time travel back to some event decades ago. We have friends who do this, and yes, we also nod in acknowledgment, but internally we just feel sorry for them, as they are making themselves irrelevant. They are merely filling up space in a conversation to let people know they still exist but, in reality, they have effectively made themselves invisible. Don’t do it. Especially do not do this in a job interview, a date, or with people you just met. Resist the urge.
Now that we know what not to do, this is the solution: have new experiences, meet new people, intake new information, be modern, and be of your time. This is not the same as imitating youth; this is about us, with all of our years, continuing to expand our world. It is not that hard. Compared to the effort one needs to put into staying alive and living healthily into advanced age, this is a cakewalk. Have a small new experience or adventure every week. Have a big one every month, and have a life-changing one every year. Get out of that comfort bubble that we all fall into. Make it a point to meet and interact with as many new people as you can. Burning Man? Pickleball with strangers? Circumnavigation of Ireland on a bike? Go see a new band play? Stay up really late in a foreign country? You can do this.
Alan Patricof, 87, who we profiled a few weeks ago, his whole life is oriented around meeting new people, learning new things, being as utterly modern as possible. Alan is relevant. Alan is one of the most interesting and least boring people I have ever met. The thing about interesting people is that other people want to be around them, which creates a virtuous circle of ongoing social interactions. Be the person that other people want to hang out with, learn from, and be inspired by.
This may strike you as a lot of bother. We all have the absolute right to live our lives however we see fit. You will never have an argument from us about that. If, however, you are one of the ones who may feel that people are treating you as if you don’t matter, as if you are not worth listening to, the good news is that all that can change.
Onward and upward,