'65 on 65' – Baby boomers reflect on aging

Aug 17, 2011

The first of the nation’s 75 million baby boomers are turning 65 this year. That’s a milestone that incites a lot of fear. But at least one woman thinks it doesn’t have to be that way. 

Kaycee Krysty, the former CEO and now "president emerita" of the Seattle wealth management firm, Laird Norton Tyee, believes baby boomers are redefining an age once known as the end of work and productivity. She is challenging her generation to write 65 words on turning 65.  (If you'd like to join her, click here.)

A few years ago, Kaycee Krysty had a brush with breast cancer. As she went through an aggressive regime of surgery and chemotherapy, she had an epiphany.

“...that, while I was proud of everything I had accomplished, what I wanted to do next, was to reach out to people, talking about life transition, and about how to make it a great thing.”

She says writing had been a salvation for her during her treatment, helping her clear and focus her mind.

Glum milestone?

She was disturbed by a recent report from the Pew Research Center, stating that the majority of baby boomers turning 65 this year are approaching that milestone “glumly. ”

She wanted to create a meaningful and fun challenge to counteract that idea.     

“First of all, it sounds good," Krysty says. "65 words on turning 65.  But it’s a very interesting discipline for people. Whenever you have a word count or a character count, it causes you to really sit back and think about the meaning and weight of the words that you choose to tell the story you want to tell.”

She set the tone with her own 65 words – inspired by a poem about a rebellious old lady who wears purple as a sign of the freedoms of growing older.

I see 65 on the road ahead and it’s all good. Like the famous lady in the poem who wears purple, I know who I am and can act with certainty. I am free to speak the awkward truths. Now, if I could just get my body to keep up with my mind – and my mind to keep up with technology – life would be sweet.

Call for contributions

She reached out to just a few people at first, asking them to join her in taking a stab at one of these miniature essays on aging. One of them was her neighbor, a multi-media artist named Dennis Evans

"And I said, ‘I would love to do that.’ And so the next day in my studio, I sat down and wrote it in at least 65 seconds. It was almost a first draft – I knew exactly what to say,” Evans says.

Evans is 64. He says he decided after turning 60 that he never wanted to waste another day of his life.  His 65 words are about reaching a level of mastery he says has made him feel he’s become a kind of wizard.

The Big Bang left me an Artist
Spent 65 years learning how to recognize the 1000 faces of god....and fashion a masterwork from a twig, some string and a stone...
And now, to bring a twinkle, a smile and a knowing stare of wonder to my fellow pilgrims, with the Magic of an Artist/Poet/Storyteller and Wizard, that is my Quest.
Time..... is my Dragon.

There are many leaders among the writers of the “65 on 65.” One of them is Tomoko Moriguchi-Matsuno, the President and CEO of Uwajimaya.

Born in a relocation camp for Japanese Americans. Started life with little choices, able to overcome this with hard work and honoring my cultural guidelines. I have earned a great life to become strong and significant. Going forward, will share my experiences to empower Asian Americans to persevere to have unlimited life choices… and there's still plenty of time to find the artist in me.

She says she took an entire month, focusing on her essay for 15 or 20 minutes every day to get just the right 65 words

“And when you write this for yourself, it’s amazing that you need 30 days to write this. You need to edit and look back and say who are you? Why do you think you are so great that you can write about yourself like this. You know. It was very good.”

She says it also made her reflect on how arbitrary numbers can be.

“I don’t see 65 as an age – physically as an age – I think of ourselves as what are we doing with our everyday, not how old are we doing, with our everyday,” Moriguchi-Matsuno says.

She’ll be retiring in two years and plans to spend a lot more time cooking and making art – pursuits she looks forward to. 

17 essays so far

And not at all the glum picture of life ahead that many people associate with Baby boomers’ retirement, says Kaycee Krysty, who is pleased with the 17 essays she has posted on her company’s web site so far. They include lawyers and college presidents, community volunteers and a retired rear admiral. But she wants more. 

“This is really an important conversation. And we were hoping to shake things up and I think we’ve started. But the more we hear from people, the better it will be,” Krysty says.

There’s no way to stop the calendar pages from turning, but Krystee believes writing 65 words on the age 65 is one way for baby boomers to cultivate a conscientious path to growing older and remaining upbeat.