What Will This Generation of Elders Mean for Humanity?

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What Will This Generation of Elders Mean for Humanity?

May 29, 2023

Chip: John Izzo is a provocative thinker and author as you’ll see from today’s guest blog post.

More people turn sixty-five each day now in America than are born and, by 2030, the number of people over sixty will outnumber those under eighteen. We are entering a unique moment. This generation of “elders” in the developed world will be the longest lived, wealthiest, most highly educated, and largest percentage of elder population in human history. It begs the question, “What will be the impact on society of this elder abundance?”

It's happening at a unique moment for humanity as well. Almost every ecosystem is at or near collapse: the climate is warming rapidly, the gap between the wealthy and everyone else is growing, there are wars in Europe and the Middle East, and the generation younger than the new cohort of emerging elders is filled with anxiety about the future. What this generation of elders does with their time, talent, wealth, and political muscle will have a big impact on how the world weathers these multiple challenges.

Recent surveys show that all generations agree that younger people are most responsible to solve the confluence of environmental and societal unrest. As an elder myself, it disturbs me that this is the case. Throughout most of history, elders in society were the ones most responsible to think about the future to ensure they become good ancestors for next generations. 

The youngest among us now have a phrase that has come to embody how they see us-the phrase is OK Boomer. It grew out of a feeling among them that the current crop of Elders has failed to constructively engage to ensure a better future. But there is good news - I believe many of today’s Modern Elders are stepping up and I hope you will join them.

I think of John Sorensen who sold his tech company but in retirement took that wealth to start an organization called The Elders Action Network dedicated to activating elders to take actions both personally and collectively to push for action on climate change and a sound democracy. Today, thousands of elders are finding new meaning in their new act as activists. I have the privilege of being on their Board.

Another example is Brian Stewart who we interviewed for our Way Forward Regenerative Conversations Podcast who left an executive position at Nike in his fifties to start a nonprofit dedicated to educate and assist people to electrify their homes. Unhinged from money as the primary motive for his work, he entered a new deep sense of purpose.

In a recent Age Wave study, Baby Boomers said by a seven to one margin that it is more important in this next chapter to be “useful” than to be “youthful.” It is perhaps no accident that at a time when humanity faces our largest collective challenges we have been gifted with a large cohort of elders with time, resources, talent, and political influence. Whether we use all of that for selfish pursuits or to create a more sustainable equitable society will enshrine our legacy. Younger generations are wondering if the meme “OK Boomer” or, instead, Gratitude will emerge from our choices.

-John

John Izzo is the bestselling author of nine books including The Five Secrets You Must Discover before You Die and The Purpose Revolution. He has been a pioneer on purpose in work and life for three decades as a coach, retreat leader and keynote speaker. His purpose is to spread kindness and compassion while helping accelerate the shift required for humanity and the planet to thrive. Here’s his TEDx talk: The Defining Moment for a Generation-in-Waiting

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