Longevity calls for some changes in our thinking

The most important book I have read this past year on the subject of ageing and longevity is The 100-Year Life: Living and Working in an Age of Longevity by Lynda Gratton and Andrew Scott.

In this book, the authors aim to help us think through a longer life span and what we each need to consider as we grow older.

The prediction is that our lifespan is increasing by two to three years every decade; that means that over the past 100 years, we are – on average – likely to live twenty to thirty years longer than our great grandparents.

This certainly calls for a re-design of our thinking. Our children and grandchildren will be impacted much more than those of us currently close to retirement.

Here is an important quotation from the book: “The current three-stage life of education, career and retirement will be replaced by a multi-stage life with new stages, new ages and with the potential for much greater individualised sequencing. The challenge is the absence of role models so most of this will have to be invented as we go along. The 100-Year Life: Living and Work in an Age of Longevity brings clarity about the choices that you need to make in the age of longevity.”

Here some of the changes predicted:

  • People will work until their 70s and 80s
  • There will be new jobs and skills
  • Getting the finances right is not everything
  • Life will become multi-staged
  • Transitions will become the norm
  • New stages will emerge
  • Re-creation will be more important than recreation
  • Options will become more valuable
  • Home and work relationships will transform
  • Younger for longer

The book also talks about looking at both our tangible and our intangible assets as important items on our balance sheet of life. In a shorter lifespan, this may not have been as important, but it will certainly have a significant impact if we are living longer. The key is in the redesign of our thinking about our individual lives and taking a look at what we can do to bring a balance between the two types of assets.

Here are a few thoughts from the book on creating this balance:

  • To think about longevity only in terms of finance and work is to negate the very essence of being human.
  • The gift of a long life is fundamentally a much more intangible gift.
  • A good life is supportive family, great friends, strong skills and knowledge, and good physical and mental health.
  • Tangible and intangible assets are inter-dependent of one another.
  • All assets require careful maintenance and mindful investment.
  • Intangible assets are not as easy to measure as tangible assets like investments, homes and funds.

From a work perspective, changes are happening at an exponential rate and our children and grandchildren are likely to have many more transitions than we have experienced. Building skills, interests, diverse networks and interests in a number of areas both locally and globally will influence the choices and possibilities.

Resilience, creativity and problem solving are skills that humans have and that are currently not duplicable by computers. Being adaptable and being able to manage change effectively is key to survive and thrive in this kind of environment.

Longevity can be a gift or a curse and that choice will rest with us.

The future awaits.

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