You May Live Past 100! Living in the Age of Longevity

How Long Will You Live?

When you’re young, you feel like you will live forever.

Soon enough, you realize that time is both fleeting and speeding by at a faster pace with each passing year.

Living to age 100 was once incredibly rare. When I was a teenager, I regularly visited a local nursing home, and it seemed most were in their 80s. Today, I know many people in their 80s and even 90s not only living on their own, but thriving, going to exercise classes, and even still driving.

100 just doesn’t seem impossible anymore.

Turns out, it’s not only possible, but now so common that it’s changing everything from the way we think and plan our lives.

Written by two professors from the London Business School, The 100-Year Life: Living and Working in an Age of Longevity, explores the implications of living much longer than we ever expected.

Here’s one statistic the authors shared with me that shocked me:

 

Research: More than half of millennials will live past 100.

 

Amazing.

Written by Lynda Gratton and Andrew Scott, this book is full of surprising statistics and the implications for all of us. I recently spoke with author Andrew Scott, Professor of Economics at the London Business School about their new work:

Copyright Lynda Gratton and Andrew Scott, Used by Permission. Oldest age by which 50% of babies born in 2007 are predicted to still be alive. Copyright Lynda Gratton and Andrew Scott, Used by Permission.
Oldest age by which 50% of babies born in 2007 are predicted to still be alive.

The Implications of the 100-Year Life

You open your book, The 100-Year Life: Living and Working in an Age of Longevity, with compelling statistics and proof. We are living longer and the implications are sweeping. Are we in the age of longevity?  What are some of the more obvious implications?

It’s well known that we are living longer, and there are more old people. However there is less understanding that there is strong evidence that each generation is living longer than the previous and is in general healthier for longer. Life expectancy has been increasing by about 2-3 years every decade for the last 200 years. That means that each generation lives around 6-9 years longer than the previous generation. There are major debates about how long and at what rate this can continue, but the signs are that best practice life expectancy is continuing to increase.

In our view people mistakenly take the fact that we are living for longer to mean that we are older for longer. They focus more on aging than longevity. However longevity means we have more years of life and will restructure our life accordingly. Many of our economic, financial and social patterns of behavior are based on an outdated view of life expectancy of around 70. We need to restructure to account for the likely possibility of a 100 year life.

With a long life we will see the end of the dominant model of a three stage life of education, work and retirement. Just as the twentieth century saw the emergence of new stages such as teenagers and retirees, so longevity will bring about whole new stages of life. Further in a multi-stage life, lockstep comes to an end. There is only one way to structure a three stage life – education, then work and retirement. There are many ways to structure a multi-stage life, so we will see the end of a strong link between age and stage. In the future you could be an undergraduate and be 20, 40 or 60. You could be a senior manager and be 30, 50 or 70. To support this multi stage life we will, and are already, seeing changes in how society structures itself. When life extends you reach previous milestones (such as marriage, having children, etc.) at different times, and ages are redefined.

 

“The antithesis of vitality is stress.” -Gratton / Scott

 

Work-life balance may become more important. What’s emotional spillover and how do we positively impact it?

If you take a 100 year life seriously and calculate how much you need to save for a pension, it’s likely that people will have to work in some form into their late 70s.  This is why we think a three stage life can’t survive as it involves a 60 year career. While working for 60 years may solve your financial problems, it does nothing to solve the deeper issues. We emphasize that living a good life requires investing in intangible assets – productive assets such as skills and knowledge, vitality assets such as health and friendships, and—of growing importance—transformational assets, the ability to deal with change and transitions. While working for longer solves your financial problems, it means your productive, vitality and transformational assets are run into the ground. This is why we think a multi stage life with breaks and transitions is inevitable, with people spending time in between stages recuperating and rebuilding their strength and talents. A longer career also means that at some points you may well take on a traditional job where financial assets are your main focus but at other points you will seek jobs that better balance life and work.

 

Stress at work is associated with a 20% increase of heart disease.

 

The Value of Education

Talk about education and how its value may change.

If working life extends over 60 years, it’s hard to think of any education you can learn at 20 that can last that long and remain that relevant. This is especially true if you believe the stories of technologists and the rise of Artificial Intelligence.  Either because your industry becomes obsolete or because your knowledge becomes outdated, you will need to seriously reinvest in education at different stages later in life. Perhaps this education will in part be provided by traditional sources, but it is also likely that we will see new organizations develop to fill the gap.

It is an interesting question then what you should learn when young if you know that at some point this knowledge will become obsolete. One common sense prediction is that when young you learn how to learn, how to think creatively and critically, and how to evaluate from a broad-based disciplinary perspective. Then you may add to this with some detailed specific technical knowledge knowing, however, that in a decade or more this may become irrelevant.

 

“In the end, long life is the reward, strength, and beauty.” -Grace Paley

 

Saving for the 100 Year Life

What are the implications for retirement? It seems daunting enough today to save with current lifespans.

As currently understood retirement is a product of three stage life thinking. It is already being undermined with a century long downward trend in those aged 65 staying on at work reversing itself. More and more people are either working past retirement or working after retirement.

Copyright Lynda Gratton and Andrew Scott, Used by Permission Copyright Lynda Gratton and Andrew Scott, Used by Permission

In a multi-stage life you will need to prepare not just for eventual retirement but also for career breaks and career transitions, all of which will require financing. Lifetime planning will not just be about end of life planning.

Retirement will still exist, e.g. a time when you stop work, but it will occur later. At traditional retirement age you will see more varied behavior. Either people will choose to carry on in their existing roles and continue to earn if their skills and firm allow, or they will break and do something different. We are seeing a rise in entrepreneurship in people in their 60s. Becoming what we term “an independent producer” is an interesting option. In this stage of life you do something that blends work and fun together, earn just enough to cover your expenses and so keep your savings intact.

 

“If you want to live a long life, focus on making contributions.” -Hans Selye

 

I found the Downton Abbey effect fascinating. Would you share more about this and its implications? 

Redesign Your Life

 

Everything Can Be Redesigned

What do you think of when you think of design?

You may think about one of those designer shows on TV that completely redecorates a living space. Perhaps you think of designing consumer products with packaging that enhances a brand. I think of Steve Jobs and his famous quote: “Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.” –Steve Jobs

 

“Design is how it works.” –Steve Jobs

 

Design isn’t just for products. It’s also for lives. Designing a life that serves others is a worthy goal.

And, if something isn’t serving us well, we can redesign it and everything changes.

BJ Miller has a unique perspective on redesign that caught my attention. He wants to redesign dying. As a palliative care physician and long term patient, his ideas are both personal and professional. His story is compelling. While climbing a commuter train with some buddies in college, he was electrocuted, severely burned, and lost three limbs. Today, he specializes in end-of-life care at the Zen Hospice Project in San Francisco. His purpose is to serve others by helping them die with dignity and grace, with no regrets or undue suffering.

 

“Design is a solution to a problem. Art is a question to a problem.” –John Maeda

 

Hospitals were not designed as a place to live and die. Healthcare providers mean well, but when someone dies in a sterile hospital setting among the beeping of the background noise and the bright fluorescent lights, the body is wheeled away, and there remains a numbness. It feels like the world should stop for a moment because a life was lost, but instead the room is quickly prepped for the next patient.

 

“We have a monumental opportunity before us…to redesign how it is we die.” –BJ Miller

 

With planning, end of life can bring us closer through compassion. There is not a magic reset button for end of life; there are no do-overs. In this TED Talk, B.J. Miller lays out real life examples of human connection through our senses. When one of the residents dies at the Zen Hospice Project, the body is wheeled through the garden. Songs and stories are shared while flower petals are placed on the body. Mourning is guided in with warmth.

It’s a beautiful redesign of the inevitable.

 

“Design in the absence of content is not design, it’s decoration.” -Jeffrey Zeldman

 

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Review Your Goals and Start Your Own Redesign Plan

The approach reminded me that any aspect of life could be redesigned.

No matter what area of your life needs redesigning, you have the incredible opportunity to start again. It doesn’t even have to be major. There are times when acting on the small things makes all the difference. Here’s to your redesign plan!

 

“Everything is designed. Few things are designed well.” –Brian Reed

 

Stop Drifting and Get the Life You Want

Get the Life You Want

Do you have big goals, a plan of action, and the confidence you will achieve your dreams?

Do you daydream about success but don’t really think it’s possible for you?

Do you want to change a wish into a plan?

This week, my wife and I purchased a car. We spent hours researching models, checking safety features, and reading online reviews. After multiple test drives and visits to various dealerships, we finally settled on one she wanted. Then we spent hours more buying it and still more hours learning its various features.

 

“You get what you focus on.” –Daniel Harkavy

 

That’s the way it is when we make a big purchase. I’m sure it’s the same in your home. We do this when planning vacations, too, right? Reading online reviews, choosing hotels, and carefully picking flights or planning a drive. If you’re at the stage where you have a teenager picking a university, you may be experiencing the dizzying array of possibilities. All of it requires time, attention, and careful planning. Whether college, a car, a vacation, or a family event like a wedding, we take the time needed to plan it all out so that we have a memorable experience.

So let me ask you a question.

Do you spend that type of time planning your life?

It seems that many of us go through our lives, accepting what comes, and just “going with the flow.”

What if there was a better way?

 

“People lose their way when they lose their why.” –Michael Hyatt

 

Michael Hyatt has just written a book with Daniel Harkavy that will help you design the life you want.

Living ForwardMichael is the CEO of Intentional Leadership, an online leadership development company. He is the former CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers and also the NYT bestselling author of Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World. You may have heard his popular This is Your Life podcast.

Michael also is a close personal friend. He encouraged me to join Twitter and start blogging. I’ve watched him grow his business, but more importantly I’ve watched how he lives his life.

Which is why I am confident you will enjoy his newest book, Living Forward: A Proven Plan to Stop Drifting and Get the Life You Want. Though I don’t know his co-author, Daniel Harkavy, I know he was Michael’s coach. His company, Building Champions, has helped many people get on track to accomplish their goals.

I recently asked Michael a few questions about the new book.

 

Design Your Life

What is a life plan?

A life plan is a brief document where you establish your personal priorities and articulate the steps you need to get from where you currently are to where you want to be. It’s a living document that you write yourself that gives you a view of your life.

 

“The man without purpose is like a ship without a rudder.” –Thomas Carlyle

 

Tell us about your own experience with Life Planning.

Daniel introduced it to me when he was my coach in the early 2000s. Before I created a Life Plan, I spent way too much time at work. That was one area where I did plan, where I was intentional, but I was really drifting in other areas of my life, including my health, family, community life, and everything else that is truly important to me. Life Planning has been transformational for me.

 

“There is no such thing as a compartmentalized life.” –Michael Hyatt

 

Begin With the End in Mind