Skip to Content

Ready for ‘Life Begins @ 50,’ ‘Freebird’ or Kanreki? These parties celebrate aging.

Throughout thousands of years of human history, people have celebrated major life events — from the ancient rituals of impending manhood to modern rituals like baptisms, bar/bat mitzvahs, confirmations, graduations, weddings and more.

We have traditional ways to commemorate and celebrate these special events.

Once the weddings and baby showers are over, most adults have very few occasions to look forward to. Yes, birthdays are coming year by year, but those may not seem like something to look forward to. Most people resist.

Finally, there is a funeral in which only those left behind gather to mark the occasion. The main character in the special occasion is missing.

My thoughts are inspired by a recent post by Chip Conley, founder of the Modern Elder Academy. He suggests that we actually need continuing celebrations as we age to mark our transformations in life. He says, “Rituals provide a rest stop for the soul, recognizing the end of one thing, often marking the beginning of an exciting new start. And yet, other than retirement and death, we have precious little in the way of rites of passage in the second half of life.”

Consequently, the Modern Elder Academy is now offering a “Life Begins @ 50” birthday party to help the world embrace the U-curve of Happiness, which suggests that people will get happier and happier after 50. This celebration is a stark contrast to the black balloons and life-is-over 50th parties we typically see.

I love the concept of a “Freebird” festival to celebrate becoming an empty nester. What fun would it be to gather with all the other parents you’ve become close to through schools, sports, Scouts, etc, over the years and have a Freebird-freedom party?

This time in life truly signifies the end of day-to-day parenting and the beginning of new opportunities. It beats moping around the house, yearning for the kids to be 10 again.

Probably my favorite comes from a tradition in Japan, Korea and China, the Kanreki celebration. The word Kanreki itself derives its meaning from the words kan (return) and reki (calendar). Simply put, turning 60 is viewed as your chance to start over again. Sixtieth birthdays are celebrated as a second childhood, a time of rebirth.

When a person turns 60, they have gone through the Chinese zodiac cycle five times and are now back at their original birth zodiac. Conley says, “Yes, our bodies are getting a little creaky, but we can still get freaky on the dance floor. I say, let’s do it.” He calls it the Creaky & Freaky Kanreki Party.

It has been proven that rituals help relieve personal and collective anxieties and fear of the future. Gathering to celebrate our growing old changes our perspective of life. It helps to keep us looking forward to new adventures. After all, there is nothing better than anticipating a great party.

I’m looking forward to my 76th this month, so how about a Music Man ritual parade? But where can I find 76 trombones to lead the parade? And, of course, in another few years, we’ll need 110 cornets close at hand.

Find Connie’s book, “Daily Cures: Wisdom for Healthy Aging,” at