As a photographer and writer, I am incredibly curious about aging. What does it mean to get older in America? How do we view the process and those that are ahead of us? What are the blessings and what are the challenges? And why can’t we see aging for what it is without trying to pretend it isn’t happening to us? Getting older is a normal part of life which I believe is to be celebrated! So, in conjunction with the Wise Women Project I am excited to announce the launch of the Magnificent Men Project! These are their stories. Want to participate? Learn more here.
How old are you? 55
What is your primary work today?
I am a senior research engineer in the Building Energy Codes Program at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL). I began this job in March of 2020 just as the Covid-19 pandemic was exploding. I lead the residential codes team and the compliance software team as part of the Building Energy Codes Program (BECP). My focus is developing advanced building energy codes while providing analysis to ensure cost effectiveness of higher efficiency buildings. In addition to improved energy efficiency in buildings, we are looking to add decarbonization, renewable energy, resilience and equity requirements into building energy codes. This has not been done before.
Prior to joining PNNL, I was principal of my own company Salcido Solutions serving the residential energy efficiency industry and as a strong advocate for efficiency in building energy codes. Before that, I worked at Architectural Energy Corporation for 16 years as a senior engineer. Later I was director of the REM/Rate residential energy rating software.
How has your professional life evolved as you became older?
When I began my career as a building science engineer, I was timid in my abilities and did my job without notice or fanfare. I excelled in my work and learned quickly, but had difficulty in speaking up about my values, needs or expertise in the workplace. Over the years, as my knowledge grew, I began to believe in my skillsets and knew I had something valuable to offer. I also became capable of expressing what I needed and what I believed as to how a company should serve its customers and industry. My personal relationships with our clients was important to me, and I worked hard to make sure they succeeded. Their success was our success. Decisions I made for our clients had a great effect on the industry I served and could sway national thinking in building energy efficiency. Not only did I have the ability to nudge the industry, my reputation grew and I very much enjoyed the networking. Now I am in a position to affect positive change in the building industry and the built environment.
Another thing I have learned to appreciate is a great team of coworkers. A lot of my success was due to understanding the value of appreciation, honesty and support of my teams. Being a manager/task lead used to scare the hell out of me, but today I see it as a challenge. I always strive to treat my team well, respecting and valuing what they have to offer.
Has your age affected your work in any way?
I feel more comfortable in my skin than at any time in my life. They say, with age comes wisdom, and I fully believe that. I learned from mistakes in the past (some have been doozies) and am no longer afraid of failure. Rather than failure, I see them as failed attempts. Building solid relationships with my co-workers even though we are all remote is important to me. I work hard when necessary and as everyone I interact with can attest, there will always be humor and laughter!
What do you wish the younger generation understood about men over 50?
I think men over 50 are finding that they can still do most of what they loved to do as a kid or young adult. We might not be as strong or fast, but we can love our work and hobbies and still get outside and hike up a mountain or ride across the city, state, or country. I see men my age doing incredible physical, cerebral or emotional things. We have a lot of life experience and knowledge that can only be gained through time. We are not over the hill and have a lot of living left to do. When I reached 30, I felt old and figured all the best years were over. That is a big myth, I have had my best years since then and am sure there will be better years ahead.
What worries you most about the future?
I would say that climate change and the political climate worry me most. There seems to be an inherent lack of empathy in our country these days and I hope some can be found in future generations. I have always felt we should treat others with respect, kindness and empathy even when no one is looking or watching. Social media has allowed so much mis-information to be spread about and that is a scary thing as well. It has stunted communication so that people do not know how to effectively express logic, feelings, or emotions to each other, especially face to face. My hope is that someday everyone can put away social media and simply talk face to face and find common ground. I fear the future for my granddaughter.
What is the hardest thing about getting older, in your opinion?
So far it has not been too bad. I feel fairly young and can still ride/hike/row/drive etc. wherever I want. I’ve been blessed with good health and do my part to stay healthy via diet and exercise. I have been racing since college when I rowed and now race the road or gravel bike from time to time. I forget things more than I used to but it is not too bad. If my wife and I get interrupted during a conversation for a split second, we both literally cannot remember what we were talking about!! I now need reading glasses but things so far have been great. I do not intend to take that for granted and am grateful for a healthy body. It’s a priority to continue to live a healthy lifestyle so I can do the things I love for a long time.
What is the best thing about getting older, in your opinion?
Comfort in my skin, boldness, not giving a shit where I should not, experience in life, watching my daughters and granddaughter grow up and live, patience, enjoying new hobbies, making a good salary, and staying young in thought. I think I know how to pick and choose my battles much more effectively.
What negative perspective about aging do you wish to effect?
I guess you are as young as you think and feel. Yes, we age but we can age gracefully. I work at being healthy by eating well, exercise and enjoying hobbies, friends and family. I am neither a fanatic about my health nor wish to try and reverse aging by medicine or technology. I accept that I’m aging but I’m happy to be able to do most anything I could when I was younger and plan to do so for a long time. Trying out new hobbies as I get older is a goal as well. My absolute love is to ride my bikes and I will do that until the grave. Someday I will be on a three wheel cycle and that is okay with me!
I never met my mother’s parents as they passed long before I was born. My grandparents on my dad’s side passed away before I was 10 years old. I only knew my grandparents as a child and not as an adult. Sometimes I think about the questions I would ask them now and what kind of conversations we would have. Just to know their personalities would be wonderful. I wish I could have had them around until my adult years. There is a ton of knowledge and wisdom in my generation and those before me. If you get the chance, learn more about someone much older than yourself.
Rob Salcido is not only a Magnificent Man, but he’s my magnificent husband!