The Evolution of When We are Old.
Ken Dychtwald has been my “modern elder” for a couple of decades since I got to know him as a fellow Esalen Institute donor and all-around cool dude. How many hipsters in their twenties in the 1970s decided to explore aging and longevity as a career? Not many, but Ken has always been ahead of the curve, creating Age Wave long ago. For a half-century, he’s been offering the world all kinds of interesting data to back up the socio-demographic changes we’re seeing around aging.
His newest study, The New Age of Aging, offers the following insights:
80 is the new 60. A half-century ago, “old” was 60. Today, it’s 80. This isn’t just your point of view; this reflects a massive survey of the norms and perceptions of health and ability.
An Age of Engagement. When asked the most significant difference between people over 60 today and those of a generation ago, respondents who were 50+ described today’s 60-year-olds as more active (79%) and more open-minded and curious (58%).
Useful, not Youthful. 83% of adults aged 65+ say it’s more important to feel useful than youthful in retirement. Today’s older adults want a continued sense of purpose and meaning in their lives.
We need to retire the word “Retirement” because it doesn’t mean what it used to. In the past, retirement meant being less active, and even the technical use of the word defined going into seclusion. When asked what best describes retirement today, 66% described it as a hopeful new chapter in life. Only 16% described it as a time of rest and relaxation, and just 6% saw it as a time to wind down.
Legacy isn’t Money, it’s Values. The majority of respondents (65%) said that the most important things to pass down are values and life lessons. Only 22% said financial assets and/or real estate were most important.
So, as many of us in the MEA community know, what defined age 60+ in our parents and grandparent’s generation is becoming increasingly irrelevant to us as we chart a new path for our later years.