Ellen Langer

The New York Times recently reported that people born before 1957 appear to have some immunity to the swine flu virus now circulating. That’s not the only advantage to being over 50. If we stop seeing change as loss, that getting older is a one-way road downhill, we may find many advantages to our maturity beyond the immunity to swine flu and the absence of acne.

I just was getting ready to appear on a news show and I realized that I don’t get nervous any more for these sorts of events. I think this is largely because I now have little or no difficulty saying, “I don’t know”. Part of this comes from growing up and no longer fearing negative evaluation from others. To explain another part, I’m reminded of a story.

Years ago I was stopped by a policeman while driving and I was surprised that I didn’t become anxious. In thinking about it, I was pleased that I had grown. Then I realized that it may have had little to do with growing up. The first time I was stopped by a policeman, I was 18 and he was about 25. This time I was 35 and he was still around 25. But now, 25 years olds just are not scary to me. The older I get the younger the rest of the world seems to be and so, for me, older age comes with less stress in that regard.