The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

January 18, 2014

Turning 50 isn’t the big deal it used to be – it’s the new 30

By Lynn Saternow

- — A lot has been made this past week about Michelle Obama turning 50 years of age. Big deal!

Several decades ago, turning 50 was a huge deal because life expectancy wasn’t near what it is today. When I was in high school back in the 1960s, I can remember thinking that people who were 50 were “really old.”

But today’s 50 is pretty much yesterday’s 30. OK, maybe 35!

I remember when I was first working at The Herald, people were forced to retire at age 65. Many died a short time later.

Yes, the first lady looks great at age 50. But so do a lot of other people I know. In fact, a lot of people look great at age 60 and 70 and ... well, maybe the term “great” can’t be apropos after that.

Let’s just say people look “good” at 80 or 90.

There was a small ad in The Herald Friday that congratulated Eric Leif Erikson on his 100th birthday. We see more and more people reaching the century mark today.

Supposedly there are 50,000 people aged 100 or more in the United States. They project that by the year 2050, there will be 1 million. No wonder Social Security is in trouble.

Increased longevity can be attributed to better health care, better nutrition and exercise.

Unfortunately, we could be seeing a little bit of a back slide as too many people – especially young people – would rather sit at a computer or engage in social media online, rather than get out and participate in various activities.

They say that the reason golf and bowling leagues have declined in this country is because at one time that was a form of social activity. But today younger people would rather socialize online.

Of course that’s also attributing to the higher obesity level among young people which is starting to drop the life expectancy rate back to about 77.

The number of kids engaging in sports isn’t what it should be either. Part of the reason is that you can’t text on a cell phone at the same time you catch a football or shoot a basketball or run the 100-meter dash.

Smoking of course is still a problem, although it has dropped considerably in the U.S. over the past few decades. They continue to link more and more diseases to smoking.

It seems unbelievable to me that people still smoke knowing that it will take years off their lives. It’s like playing Russian roulette with one bullet in the cylinder of the gun. Eventually that bullet will drop in the chamber and you will be dead, sooner than you should be.

Happy Birthday, Michelle Obama. But age 50 is just a number and today it’s really a pretty insignificant number if you take care of your health.

Well, insignificant other than the fact that you will be receiving massive amounts of information from AARP. Good times!

The Herald’s Lynn Saternow writes this column each Saturday for the Opinion Page. He can be reached at