Friday, August 19, 2016
Welcome to the New Old Age
If you look around you can see it. There are a lot more older people than there used to be.
Demographics support that view. Longevity is indeed increasing.
For most all of human history, life expectancy was about 20. But with slow advances, by the beginning of the 20th Century, it had doubled to 40. Now, just 116 years later - actually a blink of an eye in evolutionary terms - it is approaching 80.
Today, there are more than 50,000 centenarians in the United States. That's approximately 3 times as many as there were in 1999.
And, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of women and men over 100 years of age will likely exceed 1 million by 2050. A few experts are convinced that one-half of the baby girls born in 2015 will live for at least a century.
While at 64, I still have 3+ decades to hit 100, I have witnessed that longevity in my own times. When I retired from teaching in 2011, the state of New Jersey was paying pensions to 9 former teachers over the age of 100.
So what does this mean?
Well, first it is obvious we will have to get rid of a lot of our former ideas and preconceptions of what it means to be old. Many of the institutions we operated in the 20th Century - family, education, work, financial markets, housing - will all need to be drastically altered.
There is no guidebook for this. It is an unprecedented first.
But barring unforeseen cataclysmic events, longer lives looks to become the norm, not the outlier.
One of the main reasons for this blog is to explore how to best take advantage of what Ph. D psychologist and founder of the Stanford Center on Longevity Laura Carstensen calls "the fabulous gift of our super-sized lives."
Following the innovative, groundbreaking work of Dr. Carstensen and a host of other experts in the aging fields, I'm sure we will discover much as we explore this Brave New World of Aging.
I hope you'll hang around for the whole journey and encourage others to join us.