As life expectancy continues to rise in developed countries, more and more people are reaching ages that were once considered quite old. With better healthcare, nutrition, and lifestyle habits, many 70-year-olds today are living active, healthy, and meaningful lives into their 80s, 90s and beyond. This begs the question: Is 70 really that old anymore? Let’s take a closer look.
What does it mean to be young?
To answer whether 70 is the new 40, we first need to think about what it means to be “young.” In many ways, youthfulness is a state of mind – it’s about feeling energetic, being curious and engaged, and having a sense of possibility. Good health and physical fitness help maintain a youthful spirit, but age itself doesn’t define youth.
That said, there are some key differences between 40 and 70 year olds on average:
- Physical ability – While not universally true, most 70 year olds don’t have the same physical abilities as a 40 year old. Reflexes slow down and joint pain can limit mobility.
- Cognitive decline – Some mild cognitive decline is common by 70, affecting things like processing speed, memory, and focus. Dementia is also more common in older age groups.
- Social roles – 70 year olds are more likely to be grandparents, retired, and dealing with the loss of peers and loved ones.
- Appearance – Wrinkles, grey hair, and age spots are normal at 70. Style of dress also tends to be more conservative.
At the same time, many of the limitations associated with age can be minimized by staying active and engaged. So in some respects, 70 can feel similar to 40, but physical and social realities of aging exist.
How life expectancy has increased
Life expectancy has risen dramatically over the past century. Here’s a look at the stats:
|Year||Life Expectancy at Birth in the U.S.|
So while the average American born in 1900 didn’t live much past middle age, today’s newborns can expect to live into their late 70s. For those that have already reached age 70, average life expectancy is over 85 for women and nearly 83 for men.
Why the increase? Healthcare improvements, less physical labor, safer environments, and better nutrition have all allowed people to live longer. There’s still progress to be made when it comes to health equity – life expectancy varies by ethnicity and income level – but overall longevity has trended upwards.
How aging has changed
With life extending into the 70s, 80s and beyond, perceptions of aging have changed as well:
- Less defined roles – Rigid social roles and expectations around age groups have broken down. Retirement, grandparenthood, and elder status are not as strictly defined.
- More focus on health – Diet, exercise, mental activity and disease prevention get more attention as people aim to maximize their vitality.
- Higher expectations – As 70 year olds get more active on social media, find new careers, compete athletically, and maintain youthful mindsets, expectations for later life functioning have increased.
- Intergenerational integration – With 4 or 5 living generations, there is more sharing of ideas and connection between age groups.
In many ways, aging itself has been redefined – moving away from decline and towards continual growth and development.
How life at 70 compares to 40
While subjective, here are some ways life at 70 typically compares to 40:
At 70, some degree of natural physical decline is expected – vision fades, joints stiffen, strength ebbs, and reaction time slows. But regular exercise and modern medicine can counteract much of this. Mobility, fitness, and ability to participate in activities remains high, especially for those who have prioritized health.
While some cognitive changes occur by 70, such as slower processing speed and recall ability, key faculties remain sharp. Vocabulary, wisdom, and emotional intelligence often improve with age. Dementia risk rises but can be lowered through exercise, diet and brain games. Overall, cognitive vigor can remain high in 70 year olds who stay mentally and socially active.
Careers and retirement
By 70, most people have retired or cut back to part time work. But second and third careers are also common at this age. Entrepreneurship, consulting, teaching, and passion projects provide fulfillment and income. Work-life balance focuses more on leisure, family, and personal growth rather than career building.
Social and family connections
With children grown up and friends passing away, social circles inevitably shrink at 70. But relationships often become more meaningful. Grandchildren provide joy and purpose. Volunteering and communities create connections. Though lonely at times, 70 year olds often cultivate rich, authentic bonds with those dearest to them.
Romance and intimacy
Dating doesn’t stop at 70! Remarriage is common following divorce or death of a spouse. While sexual frequency and mechanics may change, physical and emotional intimacy remain important. Values like trust, understanding and companionship form the foundation for fulfillment.
Purpose and growth
With career and child rearing in the rearview, 70 year olds explore new priorities like personal development and legacy building. Things like spiritual growth, creativity, learning, and volunteer work take on new meaning. Though the future seems shorter, 70 can be an age of finding greater purpose.
By 70, most assets have peaked while expenses like healthcare rise. Retirement savings are being drawn down. But prudent investing, delayed Social Security, and part time work sustain income. Downsizing real estate and enjoying senior discounts help balance budgets. Overall, finances may tighten but remain manageable in one’s 70s.
While health issues inevitably arise, most 70 year olds retain their independence. Driving, household maintenance, and self care skills continue, especially with some assistance. Living alone or just with a spouse is still very common at this age.
Appreciation of life
With more of life in the rearview, 70 year olds tend to deeply appreciate the present. Milestones like grandchildren and retirement prompt reflection. The finite nature of remaining years inspires gratitude. While new generations take the stage, 70 can be an age of contentment and living in the moment.
Key factors that influence 70 year olds
Of course, aging gracefully into one’s 70s depends on several key factors:
Genes play a huge role in longevity and susceptibility to disease. While not deterministic, family history sets parameters around health risks and lifespan.
Diet, exercise, sleep, mental stimulation, and social connections preserve health and function. Or conversely, obesity, substance abuse, and isolation accelerate decline.
Access to preventative care and treatment of age-related disease ensures better outcomes. Lack of insurance or providers impedes active aging.
Retirement savings and benefits allow more choices around housing, care, leisure, and lifestyle. Poverty can severely restrict options and health.
Trauma like loss of a spouse or accidents can profoundly impact wellbeing. Conversely, things like close community and purpose help people thrive into older age.
While some factors are out of one’s control, it’s empowering to know lifestyle and life choices make a big difference in entering the 70s vibrantly.
Health tips for transitioning to 70 and beyond
To help make the most of your 70s, here are some key health strategies:
- Stay physically active with walking, swimming, classes, yardwork or whatever you enjoy. Mix up cardio, strength training and balance.
- Practice good sleep hygiene for restorative rest.
- Challenge your brain daily by learning new skills and playing games.
- Maintain social circles and purposeful activities to stay connected and engaged.
- Eat a Mediterranean style diet focused on plants, whole grains, fish and healthy fats.
- Keep up with preventative healthcare screenings and manage existing conditions.
- If smoking, try to quit. Limit alcohol to moderate levels.
- Consider supplements like a daily multivitamin, vitamin D, calcium and omega-3s.
- Manage stress through techniques like mindfulness, nature walks and deep breathing.
Does getting to 70 feel old?
Reaching 70 may trigger feelings of becoming elderly. But if you’re relatively fit and active, it can also just feel like another number. Many 70 year olds feel youthful and engaged day to day.
What changes should I expect in my 70s?
Some typical changes include reduced strength and stamina, mild memory issues, changes in sleep patterns, and longer recovery from illness or injury. But staying healthy can minimize declines.
Will I be lonely and bored after retiring in my 70s?
Retirement does free up a lot of time, which could lead to boredom. Stay socially and mentally active by spending time with friends, trying new hobbies, volunteering, and joining clubs.
Is 70 too old to exercise and improve my fitness?
It’s never too late to become active! Start slowly and check with your doctor. Swimming, walking, stretching and light strength exercises are great at any age.
Will I still be able to travel in my 70s?
Absolutely. Take necessary precautions like travel insurance, medications, and having a travel companion. Choose destinations suited to your abilities. Traveling can be very rewarding even into advanced age.
While 70 isn’t the new 40, it can definitely be considered the new middle age. With proper healthcare and lifestyle, the 70s are far from over the hill. It’s a time to rethink priorities, explore new passions, and enjoy life’s simpler pleasures. The golden years still have plenty of luster for those who continue reaching for meaning and purpose. Get ready for the adventure!