Sonenshine: Why 55 is the perfect age

Why 55 is the best birthday.

Why 55 is the best birthday. (Credit: iStock)

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Having read about every article and book on turning 50, I am here to tell you that 55 is the perfect age. There's a reason it is considered a safe speed. If I were you, I'd skip 50 and go straight to 55. You are in the E-ZPass lane.

At 55, you have enough wisdom to claim experience without thinking you know it all.

You are "senior" without feeling like a senior citizen. You can get discounts at some movie theaters depending on how honest you are about your age.


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At 55, you are old enough to enjoy a nap but young enough not to need one.

Vacations are still a break from daily life not a continuation of it.

At 55, you can take a trip to Manhattan and not spend the entire day at FAO Schwarz. Times Square is crowded but -- so what? You are not pushing a stroller.

At 55, the hardest part of parenting is over. The kids are old enough to drive but young enough to still let you. You are happy when they want to spend time with you but happy when they don't.

At 55, everyone is making fewer demands on your time. Even the dog is hitting middle age and mellowing.

At 55, you don't have to "lean in" professionally. You simply have to stay grounded. Balance is defined as not falling off any curbs that interfere with your yoga class. There is less pressure to prove yourself and greater understanding of your peers and colleagues. You can relate to anyone having a bad hair day.

But it's not all rosy at 55. The bad news about 55 is that your clothing size is one size larger. The good news is that you are likely downsizing in the mortgage department -- and your shoe size has not changed.

Driving at night when you are 55 is only minimally dangerous to others.

At 55, you can exercise with only minor pain the next day and your hips and knees are still under warranty. You can still find eyeglasses in the pharmacy without a prescription and e-readers mean you can read anywhere and remember the plot, if not the title of the book. (Memory loss at 55 relates mainly to finding keys but not facts except the fact that you have to dye your roots more often. )

At 55, you still have the energy to work but you relish play. You rediscover the notion that weekends mean the end of a week of work not more of it.

At 55, you recognize it's the perfect time for building community. You discover that you like your siblings -- and your neighbors even though you didn't pick either. You understand that changing the world might include fighting to have your street repaved.

At 55, you conserve energy. You are still keen to debate an issue -- but to a point, and then you yield the floor. It's too late to argue.

Age is a mindset, and 55 is an age where it's possible to change your mind and not get too set in your ways. You can bend without breaking but the key is to stay flexible. Nothing should be set in stone.

I used to think 55 was old when it was the age of my parents. Now I realize they weren't old at 55 -- they just liked playing cards. So be happy you are turning 55.

The alternative is worse. You could be turning 50!

Tara Sonenshine is a distinguished fellow at George Washington University.

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