Saturday, January 3, 2009

Pattern Recognition #8 - The New Old Age

The fact that we are living longer now presents us with a whole different set of perspectives on living. Things have changed rapidly in a short time.

For example, a good friend of my mother's had a heart attack last week and needed open heart surgery. He is 88.

When I think back to my own grandparents, strokes and heart attacks spelled the end for them when they were in their late 60s. People used to think about retiring by 60 or 65 because they wanted to have a few years of relaxing after their hard working life. And they at least wanted to enjoy some leisure time before checking out because not so long ago, life expectancy was shorter.

My mother is 83 and still leads a very active life. She does water aerobics, yoga, swims and walks. She goes places with her friends and does volunteer work in the community.

During the last century our life expectancy grew significantly. Life expectancy for Americans is now 78. In 1900, the world life expectancy was approximately 49 years and in 1985 it was about 62 years.

The other day someone was talking about midlife crises and I mentioned that I hadn't had one, and probably wouldn't. They looked kind of puzzled and I said that I expect to live to be more than 100. These days it is not so far fetched.

For a long time, when people asked me about retirement plans I told them that my retirement plan was to keep busy doing something until I drop dead. The old model of retirement where you just sit in the rocking chair and watch TV or you go golfing or hang out by a beach is just not interesting enough for me.

It helps when we look at history with this in mind. People had to do things by the time they were 20-30 because life expectancy might only have been 30-40. During the Roman Empire, 25 was the average life expectancy.

So take a look at the new old age. Many people are aging very gracefully and staying active far longer than our parents and grandparents or great grandparents. And that means we have a lot more time for whatever it is we want to do.

No comments: