4/28/2023 | By Annie Tobey

Is it just me, or when you read something or hear someone mention the “Golden Years,” you get a little anxious and start nervously twitching? Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating a tad. It’s not that I’m dreading this new chapter of my life or that I wish I could still be in my 20s. (Sure I miss the taut skin, but no way would I want to go back there.) The problem is the term itself. The Golden Years. The Golden standard. Taking Home the Gold! The Gold! That’s a lot to live up to.

Before getting myself into a tizzy, I think it’s best to look at the origin of the phrase the “Golden Years.” I always thought that it had been in our lexicon from the beginning of time. I imagined the ancient Egyptians working their entire lives building the pyramids with the end goal of their “Golden Years” as the dangling carrot. The Wild West settlers traversing the Oregon Trail could get through just about any hardship because they knew that as soon as they hit 65, they too could start enjoying their years of panned gold. And of course, we all remember Dorothy, Blanche, Rose, and Sophia … The Golden Girls, who every week came into our homes to show us how much fun retirement age can be, and most importantly, that whatever problems arise could always be fixed with 30 minutes and a cheesecake.

Tom Burke and Lois Mills of the Silver and Sensational podcast

So … you can imagine how surprised and let down I was when after a short Google search, I discovered that the first use of the “golden” term dates all the way back to New Year’s Eve 1959. The term was a marketing ploy used by a developer named Del Webb who created Sun City, Arizona – the first planned retirement community. Instead of dreading years of solitude and declining health, Del Webb coined the term so that retirement would become something people looked forward to and was a “golden” time of leisure. Back then “golden years” lasted a little more than a decade. Today, we are living a lot longer. Those retirement years can last upwards of 30 years or more. That is a long time to keep up the golden standard.

That idea of living idyllic “Golden Years” is putting way too much pressure on our lives to be perfect. Life is far from perfect. The moment we fall short is when we start judging ourselves and telling ourselves that we aren’t good enough or golden enough. When we experience loss or a health issue or a money issue, we fall short from that promised golden standard.

This, my fellow Boomers, is why I am suggesting that we get rid of the pressure that the made-up real estate gimmick the “Golden Years” is putting on all of us and change it to the “Silver Years!” Silver is so much better. There isn’t the pressure that the “Golden Years” puts on you to be in first place … to be the healthiest, the richest, the happiest. With silver, you don’t have to always be striving to finish first or to be perfect. Life is usually messy and far from perfect … but we’re still in the race. Live your “Silver Years” to the fullest by being the best you that you can be. Don’t compare yourself to anyone else or to anyone else’s standards. Whether you are able to retire or still need to work, whether you are healthy or under a doctor’s care, climb onto that podium and grab your medal … the Silver medal … and be glad you no longer have that golden pressure to be perfect!

Tom Burke and Lois Mills, who bookend the Boomer generation, co-host the podcast Silver and Sensational in which they explore subjects relating to and affecting all seniors, or as they refer to themselves … Silvers.

Related: Betty White’s Secrets to Longevity

Annie Tobey

Annie Tobey has been a professional writer and editor for more than 30 years. As editor of BOOMER magazine, she explored a diversity of topics of particular interest to adult children of seniors. When she’s not writing, she can be found running the trails or enjoying a beer with friends.

Annie Tobey