Seventy: The Foothills of Old Age
By Victor Westgate

I think Leonard Cohen is one of the most prolific songwriters as well as spiritual performers that I had the opportunity to see on stage before his death at the age of 82.  Fortunately, his words will continue on forever in his recorded music for our generation as well as future listeners.

In one interview, Cohen said “…seventy is indisputably not youth. It’s not extreme old age either but rather at the foothills of old age…” Maybe I like this description because I turn seventy in less than 4 weeks and can easily resonate with his description of this time in my life. I think if we are honest or at least take a moment to consider our time on this planet we all find the need to leave something of ourselves for others for the future and in doing so reaffirm that our time on this planet matters. Painters will often suggest that their profession allows them to leave behind for others what they see and feel in their existence. Knowing Cohen has passed on, yet new artists still sing his praises through his lyrics reaffirms this belief.

As I look back, I know some of the students I taught decided to take up education in part because of me or maybe in spite of me, but they follow a tradition that I followed as well. I knew in 8th grade in my history teacher’s class that I wanted to be an educator and know in part it was because of her. But, as one who finds himself at the foothills of old age, I know that there are still hills to climb and challenges worth taking. At this time in my life, I am experimenting almost daily with the need to find new ways to mentor others and maybe learn something from those I encounter now as well. I don’t know if seventy is the new sixty but I do know that standing at the foothills of the mountain gives me the experience to glean from the past and the courage to look toward the future and share with others the lessons I have learned.

Victor Westgate, a high school educator of 34 years, along with his wife Dr. Lisa Cowley, a holistic chiropractor and nutritional counselor of 25 years, are authors of Pack Lightly: Making Sense of the Second Half of Your Life. You can learn more at: 


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