100 year life
01 July, 2016
I've read a lot about longevity and can understand why people prefer to focus on the here and now rather than contemplating what a long life might mean.
For me, a long life expectancy is a welcome prospect; I didn't imagine I'd make old bones since my parents died at a relatively young age. If the experts are right, and I'm actually going to live until I'm 90, I feel quite blessed.
But not everyone feels as positive about living longer than originally imagined, particularly if their expectations have been a couple of decades short. It is already a struggle for most to save enough during the working years to allow a decent lifestyle in the retirement years. If you suddenly have to contemplate funding an extra 10 years, it can be a scary thought to say the least.
A new book published last month is on my must-read list as it takes a more positive and pro-active approach to the idea of longevity.
In writing The 100-Year Life, Living and Working in an Age of Longevity, authors Lynda Gratton and Andrew Scott challenge governments, companies and individuals to restructure our lives so that increased longevity becomes a gift, not a curse.
They note most children born in rich countries today can expect to live to more than 100, yet we are still structuring our lives the way our parents or even grandparents did. If we are in our 20s or 30s, we have a long stretch of time ahead to shape our lives differently. If we are in our 40s, 50s or 60s, we need to reconsider our future and think about how we will re-invest in the second half of our life.
According to reviews, the book is not preachy and is "full of frisky ideas about how the over-60s can live the final third of their lives with portfolio jobs, community activism and cross-generational friendships". 'Frisky' — now that's a term I'd never use to describe the longevity literature I've read to date...
The authors say nearly everything about our lives needs to change to make longevity a gift. How we work, how we gain our education, who we decide to spend our lives with and when we have children, how we spend our leisure time and the role of women in society.
The whole of society will have a role to play. Employers will need to become "age agnostic" and governments will need to consider lifetime measures rather than age-specific policies.
The book certainly takes a long-term, holistic approach to increased life expectancy and some will dismiss it as waffly psychobabble. But, to me, it's at least a good starting point for a long overdue discussion.
Longevity has been important issue for a long time already — and it is not going away.
British people who turn 100 receive a message from the Queen. A decade ago, one assistant sent the cards. Today, it takes seven.
In Japan, those turning 100 receive a silver sake dish. In 1963, 153 people received one. In 2014, the figure was 29,350 and last year the government said it was reconsidering those gifts.
A writer in 1651 talked of life being "nasty, brutish and short". Gratton and Scott suggest that unless changes are made, life for many will be nasty, brutish and long.
A 100-year life will only be a blessing if we start preparing for it now.