The Abundance of Aging

The so-called “longevity revolution” drives the next phases of Baby Boomer life, as they reach into their elder years. In short, we are still around and will stay around much longer than our predecessor generations. Plus, there are a lot of us, some 78 to 80 million by most estimates.

As Roger Landry so aptly explained in “Live Long, Die Short”:

“Life expectancy at the end of the nineteenth century in the United States was still approximately age forty-nine, but these discoveries, which provided safe water, infection-reduced surgery and childbirth, vaccines, and, eventually, in 1928, penicillin, began to increase longevity dramatically. In fact, in the twentieth century alone, lifespan increased more than it had since the Bronze Age. We were bright. We were beautiful. We were the rulers of the earth. Maybe we would live forever.”

The late Theodore Roszak, a prolific social activist, historian and writer who chronicled and analyzed boomers, offered the following optimistic and colorful appeal relative to the longevity revolution and the future:

“Imagine, then, adding together all those extra years as a resource – a cultural and spiritual resource. . . During any one of those years, somebody who no longer has to worry about raising a family, pleasing a boss, or earning more money will have the chance to join with others in building a compassionate society where people can think deep thoughts, create beauty, study nature, teach the young, worship what they hold scared, and care for another. Once we realize this, we should have no difficulty understanding the most important face about the longevity revolution. It has given us this remarkable generation the chance to do great good against great odds.”

Where and How?
With longevity odds in our favor, life evolves around two important aspects of our futures: First, how and where are you going to live and support yourself comfortably (and your family if you have responsibilities that include others) as you very possibly earn less money and become less desirable by prospective employers and clients (if self-employed)? In other words, where are you going to dwell, work and rest, and how will you survive financially? Second – and this is from numerous vantage points – how are you going to find that mystical work-life balance over a few (or more) decades, if you are, in fact, lucky enough to be around that long?

Hopefully, your human capacity, regardless of how old you are, is still as limitless as it was when you were an adolescent. Some will slow down and simply settle where they have built a comfortable and loving home and family. Others will dive into the unknown in search of a more ideal and final resting place. And still others will have no choice. They cannot opt out of work completely because they do not have a nest egg and have barely enough to pay their rent. They may have an elder parent who needs their assistance on a daily basis. They may have their own health issues that have increasingly become costlier, requiring them to work even harder into old age.

Perhaps you will be fortunate enough to be able to start on a quest. Take, for example, the amazing Jonathan Look, a talented photographer/writer and master composer of “Life Part 2: Live Your Dream.”  He took early retirement in 2011 and hasn’t looked back (pardon the pun). His quest, simply put: to travel the world and catalogue it all with stunning photos and interesting articles about retirement. In particular, I enjoy his non-risk-averse nature overall. I believe it is something to reconsider as we age.  Get out there and try things again, like you were before you pursued a career path in your early twenties.

And speaking of not being risk averse and the possibility of pursuing a quest, check out “The Happiness of Pursuit,” by Chris Guillebeau, another world traveler who is a great example of how to live a non-conformist lifestyle (something I admire in anyone). His books seem to be written more for a younger audience but can certainly be applied to those who are in their retirement years. Reading about his life and the many fascinating case studies he presents about “questers” from around the globe may motivate you to take on an interesting quest yourself before it’s too late.

Bottom line, five years from now you will be five years older (unless, of course, you die). What do you see?

This is the same question we paid close attention to when we were much younger, seeking our way into society. Now as we exit much of our former social realities due to aging, should we revert to our early post high school days? Is it again time to start pursuing something more meaningful and figure out what we are going to do with ourselves?

(photo by Cristian Newman)

Thanks for stopping by George.

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