Today, my mother is turning X5 (and no, “X5” isn’t a division of Britain’s MI5, it’s an attempt to mitigate the fact that she’s achieved what the English call “a good age.”)

Earlier this morning I went to the local CVS in Boston, Mass.,  to look for cards for her.  And here’s what I found when it came to birthdays with “numbers”:

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Lots of cards for those turning 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10, and several cards for those turning 18, 21, 30, 40, 50, and 60, but it stops there.  Nothing beyond 60.

So what happens after a 60th birthday?  Is it that in America you don’t talk about birthdays after the 60th, or at least proclaim it on a birthday card?  And Americans talk about everything, so what gives?  Any theories on this, people?

This time last year when we were living in Cambridge, England, I stopped by the local chemist’s (pharmacy) to get my mother a birthday card.  This shop is probably 1/100 the size of the Boston CVS and so its space is very, very limited.  And yet, the display of birthday cards included these:


Clearly, there was enough of a market for people turning 80, 90, and even 100 for this tiny shop to devote its retail space to these cards.  (And in the UK, when you turn 100 you get a birthday card from the Queen, so it’s well worth trying to hang on until then.)

Americans who are 65 years and older constitute 13.3% of the population.  In the UK, it’s 16%–a big difference when it comes to planning for social services, but not that big a difference when it comes to having numbered birthday cards available in pharmacies/chemists for senior citizens.  Again, what gives?

But for now, happy birthday Mum!  And let’s look forward to a birthday card from the Queen (may she live to be 101 like her mother the Queen Mum) in Y5 years!