I can only speak from my experience. I´m your age too.
I got a hernia (about 8-9 years ago) & my doctor said as long as it doesn´t bother you, it´s only a cosmetic problem. I had to get surgery because I was having a lot of cramping, pain, & discomfort. (When the pain happened, if I laid on my back, I could feel the hernia sorta go back into my body. Gross, I know.) I got the mesh procedure done. I do worry about having that object in my body though.
As for the procedure (and I know you´re asking about alternatives), my doctor said I would be running in 3-5 days. WRONG! I could barely walk for a week. I think I probably took about, um, 6 weeks off from running. I have not had any problems with it since.
I do have a second hernia on the other side (for about 4+ years now). It only bothers me if I´m really dehydrated. But, if I drink lots of water, then I´m fine. No other problems. I´m NOT planning on getting any surgery done of it because I´m afraid of--like I said above--having this foreign object in my body.
(I have not heard any mesh horror stories, but have seen those ambulance-chasing lawyer, late night TV commercials saying ¨if you had a mesh hernia surgery, call this number¨.)
I think I remember reading a thread on LRC about going to physical therapy for the hernia, but that it takes a long time to get it to heal-up? I could be wrong though.