Because my mother died at age 60, the issue of longevity is always on my mind. I love reading any study about people living longer with greater productivity. And I especially loved reading that 80 is the new middle age. Sounds somewhat far-fetched, but I’ll choose to believe it.
This fact was buried in an interesting post on Jonathan Low’s The Lowdown blog: “The Beat Goes On: 60-Somethings Embrace the Future”. The hip title is summed up well in these words:
“Boomers are hitting the traditional retirement age in massive numbers. But research suggests that people actually view themselves as ten years younger than they really are. In the Boomers’ case, that means that instead of adventure vacations, they are plotting new ventures.”
Ah, I love it. Thousands of fellow boomers working hard to take care of their health and planning interesting ventures for decades beyond traditional retirement—like me. We’ll all be in good company.
In the same article Jonathan includes reporting from Emma Jacobs in the Financial Times. That’s where the new middle age number comes in. “Patricia Smith, senior vice-president at New Directions, refuses even to use the word ‘retirement’–preferring instead to describe it as a career shift to a portfolio of activities; she sees middle age as extending to 80. There is a life-expectancy shift, a recognition that older people have more time to work; they may be burnt out by their current jobs and yearn to feel passionate about work again.”
My feeling is that the sense of ongoing possibility fuels both passion and longevity. Regrettably, my mother did not feel that her life held expansive possibilities. I think that had to play into her early death. If we believe that age does not limit our potential to accomplish and contribute, and we believe that people or institutions are not standing in our way, I think it has been well proven that our hearts and passions keep ticking.
It is indeed a cultural phenomenon, though. In this country a large percentage of Baby Boomers barrel into post-50 years. We throw away AARP envelopes and refuse to accept the idea that we are past our prime. I talk to people from other cultures—from less affluent areas of South America, for example—who tell me that age 50 is still considered quite old and 80 is often an age many never expect to reach. People are in fact living longer all over the world—but there will always be some who bow to the mindset that possibilities narrow with age–and in turn let the life escape out of that living.
Of course, a zeal for life comes from pursuing passions and actual productivity. If 80 is indeed the new middle age, we all have—in spite of any economic downturns–decades for second, third and fourth paid and unpaid careers. With planning and the firm mindset of possibility, we’ll reach this new mid-life point without crisis—just opportunity. —KAS
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