“Youth has no age.” Pablo Picasso
A friend of mine who recently turned 65 did not want to celebrate her birthday but we all talked her into it. While “Helen” did not want to have a party to celebrate “old age,” her friends saw this an an opportunity to acknowledge her significant achievement. Helen told us that all she wanted to do on her birthday was stay home in her pajamas and order a meat lover’s pizza. She did not want any attention and she was in no mood for partying. We deferred. And then she changed her mind!
Celebrating a landmark or milestone birthday or anniversary is an opportunity to impose order on the passage of time, make some sense of the passage of time, and celebrate both the past and the future (Stephens & Williams, 2017). Society determines what is and is not a milestone or landmark occasion. For example, in America, it is common to celebrate birthdays at age 16, 21, 40, 50, 65, 80, and 100. Milestone anniversaries are typically celebrated for 10, 25, 40, and 50 years of marriage.
Milestone birthdays can also be opportunities to engage in an unusual activity such as skydiving or take up a new hobby or sport. I read about Ginny Reed, who recently turned 70 and began her “health adventures” with hiking and running (Corrigan, 2018). I read about Lawrence, a CPA who turned 50 and took up a new passion, foot-launched paramotoring (Corrigan, 2018).
Milestone birthdays also provide us with social bonding, status, and prestige with lots of positive emotion from family and friends as they come together to collectively acknowledge an important achievement. It is also a time of reminiscing and reflecting but not everyone embraces that task. Although I adore milestone birthdays for others and myself, it is important to respect the wishes of the others and not force a party, as doing so can trigger negative emotions and feelings.
Corrigan, P. (April 23, 2018). Confronting a milestone birthday? What 10 people did, or plan to do, when turning 50, 60, 70, 80, and 90. Retrieved from NextAvenue https://www.nextavenue.org/confronting-milestone-birthday/
Stephens, S., & Williams, L.A. (May 17, 2017). Why milestones matter: How birthdays and anniversaries shape our lives. Retrieved from ABC News http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-05-18/milestones-how-birthdays-and-anniversaries-shape-our-lives/8533906