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Posted on July 25, 2023 by Karen Rancourt, Ph.D. in aging, KAREN L. RANCOURT, makeup birthdays

Contrasting My 70th and 80th Birthdays

Contrasting My 70th and 80th Birthdays


Ten years ago, when I was turning 70, I decided to throw myself a party I themed “The Incredible Women in Karen’s Life.” The categories of the 32 women who attended included: cherished family members, “those who were like a daughter to me” or “like a sister to me,” women from my professional organization, former colleagues and clients, and elementary and high school friends. I planned a luncheon at a restaurant, followed by coffee and dessert at my daughter Heather’s and son-in-law Jordan’s nearby apartment.

Karen and Heather at Karen’s 70th birthday party, 2013


On party day, there was so much to do, starting with getting my outfit steam pressed at the cleaners, followed by getting my hair and makeup done. Back then, I always wore makeup and had my hair professionally cut and colored. It was important that I present myself as “glam” and as fashionable as possible. More about this later …

The party was wonderful, and I enjoyed every minute of it.

Celebrating Karen’s 70th birthday with many of the important women in her life, 2013







“In approaching a new decade, it was logical time to ponder some differences between turning 70 and turning 80.”

When I turned 70, one thing that comes immediately to mind is how much I was enjoying excellent health. I was in tip-top form! For decades I had done “all the right things.” That is, I was eating healthily, I stretched and exercised daily, I was thriving professionally, and I had lots of loving relationships with family and friends.

Then, BAM! Two weeks before my 76th birthday, I experienced a kind of blackout. As I explain in a column I wrote about this episode, I was diagnosed with essential hypertension (high blood pressure), meaning it is not the result of any discernible medical condition. In other words, as one cardiologist said after going over my medical history, “You shouldn’t be here [in the Emergency Department with high blood pressure].” After all, I had been doing “all the right things.”

This medical event humbled me, and I no longer took my great health for granted. Yes, to this day I continue to do all the right things, but in addition, my daily routine now includes taking my medications, as well as taking my blood pressure (I use an Omron Bloodpressure Monitor) and pulse oximeter levels (I use an Ankovo Finger Pulse Oximeter) to read my oxygen saturation and pulse rate. Four years in, and so far, so good. That sound you hear is me knocking on wood.

In approaching a new decade, it was logical time to ponder some differences between turning 70 and turning 80. For me, big differences include:

  • I no longer rush around when I get up. I take my time drinking my coffee, doing Wordle, reading Heather Cox Richardson’s daily blog, and reading three different online newspapers. I love this guilt-free dawdling and meandering from one thing to the next.
  • I spend more time on stretching, strength training, and exercise, sometimes as much as three hours a day. My motto is: Keep moving. I am grateful that I am still able to enjoy walking, biking, stand-up paddle boarding, kayaking, and pool walking, all things I can do with Gary, my husband of 57 years.
  • Since I no longer interact with others professionally in person, and because I live in warm weather year-round (Jersey Shore in the summer, Florida in the winter), my basic wardrobe consists of tank tops and cargo shorts. That said, I can kick it up with dressy slacks and tops if I must, e.g., go out to dinner or to a party.
  • My glam days are over. Between being socially isolated during COVID, and just not wanting to bother anymore, I no longer wear makeup. In fact, the last time I wore makeup was Friday, February 28, 2020. I remember the exact date because it was when I had the pleasure of co-presenting at a conference in St. Petersburg, Florida, with Christine Crosby, CEO and Editorial Director, GRAND Magazine.
  • I don’t worry about physical changes. For example, I have flabby arms, my skin is like crepe paper and bruises easily, I have developed “love handles,” I am three pounds heavier than I was at 70, and my face resembles that of a shar-pei’s. So, who cares? I used to, but not any longer. It certainly helps that Gary doesn’t care; in fact, he tells me all the time that I am beautiful (eye of the beholder, etc., etc.) and that he likes that I have stopped wearing makeup.

About my 80th birthday: as it was approaching, Heather asked me how I wanted to celebrate it. Did I want a party? No, I decided, I would rather have it be low key, something with just the immediate family — maybe a bike ride with the grandsons, (ages 17 and 21), if I can guilt them into riding with me: “All I want for this all-important birthday is to bike with you …” Or, maybe get some lobsters and clams, something all six of us enjoy doing together. (For the past 16 years, Gary and I have lived with Heather, Jordan, and our two grandsons for the summer and fall in their vacation home, but that’s a story for another time.)

So, you may be wondering, how did I spend my 80th birthday? Well, I did take a morning bike ride, sans my grandsons. Guilt only goes so far, right? Both boys were busy and said, “Later this summer”: we all know what that’s code for. Midday, the tides, weather, and winds were perfect, so Gary and I took our wave runner up the river to dock ‘n dine for a lobster salad lunch, and then for dinner, we went to a favorite restaurant, and I ordered lobster, yes, again.

Karen and Gary celebrating Karen’s 80th birthday, 2023

So, by choice, my turning 80 was a quiet event compared to my turning 70. If I have the good fortune to enjoy another ten years, perhaps I will contrast my 80th and 90th birthdays. Meanwhile, I will be busy counting my many blessings and adjusting to whatever life changes are sure to come my way.


Karen Rancourt, Ph.D.

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