The New Frontier of Aging.
Policymakers better take note. My friend Andrew Scott, co-author of “The 100-Year Life,” outlines the following in his essay for the International Monetary Fund entitled “The Future of Aging for Policymakers:”
“In 1965 there were 129 million people over 65 in the world; today there are nearly 750 million, and this figure is expected to reach 2.5 billion by 2100. The number of centenarians is also rising—from 20,000 in 1965 to a projected 19 million by 2100.”
The message is clear: anyone looking at what they think is a static society today better recognize that we are ill-prepared for people living this long. I’m not peddling fear here. I’m suggesting that employers start thinking about how they will seek out smart, motivated 75-year-olds who still “got it.” For those who joined me on our Happy Hour last week with fashion designer Norma Kamali (who is 75), you know she still has it!
I’m suggesting that the future of housing will be very different from the recent past (although much like the distant past), with multigenerational households proliferating.
I’m also suggesting that certain places in the world (like my neighborhood in southern Baja ) are going to become havens for the “young old” (“yolds”). People will move from focusing on their livelihood in the suburbs to moving to a “lively ‘hood.” Sun City and Rossmoor Leisure World represent the past, not the future.
Laura Carstensen, who started the Stanford Center on Longevity, suggests we need a New Map of Life, one that has very little similarity to The Game of Life board game that we grew up with. What if we started measuring healthy life expectancy as the determination of a prosperous country or society instead of gross domestic product?
One hundred years ago, “adolescence” was an academic theory, and “retirement” was ten years from becoming a mainstream concept. “Midlife” didn’t exist as a life stage. Over the 21st century, we’re going to see remarkable changes in longevity and how we view a well-lived life.
Given that the U.S. will be inaugurating its oldest President in its history next month, let’s recognize that it’s time to retire the idea of “age” and welcome the concept of “stage” when it comes to how we curate our life. My stage at age 60 may be very different than yours, and that’s perfectly fine, but we need more flexible policies to recognize that old age and later stages are not a “one-size-fits-all” phenomenon.
I’ll say it again; it’s time for policymakers (and all of us) to take note.