2015 was a year of lessons for the staff at Huff/Post50. Here are some of the things we learned about aging this year:
1. The idea of living to 100 may be inching closer, but that doesn’t mean everyone is thrilled by the prospect.
Science confirmed that we are indeed living longer, if perhaps not for those reasons.
But lots of our readers agreed that just racking up years in and of itself wasn’t really the goal. We want to live not just longer, but healthier. If we can’t be on our own, all bets are off. Don’t miss this essay by Ezekiel Emanuel that makes the case for dying at 75.
2. Retirement is nothing like we grew up believing it would be.
Given that we are living longer, we’d also like to work longer. We need more money to be able to afford our extra years. Besides, no one wants to fall into a pit of boredom. If we able to, why shouldn’t we be able to work as long as we want and need to?
World Bank Senior Economist Johannes Koettl published this for Brookings last spring noting that the silver tsunami scenario everyone fears is based on what is known as the “old-age dependency ratio.” This ratio defines how many retirees a worker has to sustain. With too many retirees and too few workers, there are serious concerns about what will happen to the world’s current pension systems, including U.S. Social Security, when the ratio gets too out of whack.
But the old-age dependency ratio we rely on has a big, glaring weakness: It assumes that at age 65 everyone will become an “old-age dependent” — meaning retire and leave the workforce. And the reality is, that isn’t the case now and certainly won’t be true in the future.
“In the future, we may all be able to work forever,” wrote Koettl. OK, let’s hope he’s wrong on that one. Life is more than what we do for a living.
3. Age discrimination is alive and well and damaging to older people in both large and small ways.
2015 is the year that the spotlight began to shine on what has been called the last unaddressed prejudice in America: Ageism. Watch for there to be continued pressure on companies — especially the tech industry in Silicon Valley — to explain why they aren’t hiring anyone over 40. And enough with the demeaning condescension of “adorable grandparents” already. Microaggressions are just as ageist and just as problematic.
4. Innovators who want to profit in the future need to understand our needs better.
Of course if they hired us, maybe they would get what we want and need. To start, we want more than better mousetraps. A gigantic pill box labeled with the days of the week isn’t innovation. A transportation system that gets older people where they need to go without driving is. So are granny flats, which some places still ban through out-of-date zoning laws. Every day, so-called “innovations” come in for our consideration. So many are based on out-of-date perceptions about older people. As we said before, #agingmatters.
5. Friends and loved ones are not just everything; they are the only thing.
From how to keep a long-time marriage alive to valuing our closest women friends and hearing our hearts break when our nest empties, midlifers have come to appreciate just how important our connections are. And by the looks of things, we may wind up living with our friends again ala the Golden Girls.
6. Aging lessons can be found in many places.
Small aches can sometimes be ignored. Your doctor is only as good as her front office staff. And rarely can happiness be found through plastic surgery. We looked no further than our pets and our Fitbits and picked up some pointers.
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