As baby boomers, retirees today are the generation of change. Experts predict that aging and retirement will evolve tremendously in the near future.
Many of the predictions outlined below were culled from from Next Avenue’s list of Influencer’s in Aging. They named 50 thought leaders on aging and asked, “If you could change one thing about aging in America, what would it be.”
Ageism Will Be the Next Battleground
In America we are struggling with equal rights for women, different races and different sexual orientations. Will the next battle be ageism?
Ashton Applewhite, the author of “This Chair Rocks: A Manifesto Against Ageism,” says, “We would no longer see aging as a problem to be ‘fixed’ or a disease to be ‘cured,’ but for what it is: a powerful, natural, lifelong process that connects us all.”
Will We All Become Perennials?
Maybe we aren’t really baby boomers, Gen xers, millenials and the greatest generation.
A recent essay by Gina Pell, suggests that we are perennials. She writes, “We are ever-blooming, relevant people of all ages who live in the present time, know what’s happening in the world, stay current with technology, and have friends of all ages…”
A few thought leaders from the Next Generation survey embody this idea:
Norman Lear, the television writer says, “So, here I am in my nineties. I don’t walk as sturdily as I did, I have aches and pains I choose not to dwell on, and I am well aware of my mortality. Despite these physical realities, and however old I may look, I do not feel like an old man. I feel more your peer. Whether you are 15, 35 or 70, I am your peer.”
Betty Reid Soskin is 95 and the oldest full time ranger with the U.S. National Park Service. She advocates for integration as a way to fight aging and stigmas, “I would probably want to see elders folded into society as they once were — inclusively — and not ghettoized into ‘markets’ and ‘all-senior communities’ where the contagion of elder-related behaviors, attitudes and limitations dictate one’s quality of life. Keeping ourselves mainstreamed in all ways, I do firmly believe, extends life. This encourages a continuation of first-time experiences and keeps us contemporary.”
And Iris Apfel, Style Icon says, “If you don’t learn constantly, you don’t grow and you will wither. Too many people wither on the vine. Sure it gets a little harder as you get older, but new experiences and new challenges keep it fresh.”
Family Caregiving and Mixing the Generations
You may have had to put a loved one into an assisted living facility. Most families hate the experience. It can be very difficult to find assisted living that feels humane and graceful.
At the same time, Adult children are moving back home in huge numbers. Too often this is due to financial set backs and the adult children can be a big strain to their aging parents’ finances.
We also have our own aged parents to worry about.
However, mix these trends together and there could be a positive outcome. We all need help sometimes and if our adult children can help care for us as we age, we may be able to solve some of the problems around the tremendous expense of long term care.
Susan C. Reinhard, Senior Vice President and Director of the AARP Public Policy Institute advocates, “I would change many things to help Americans pioneer healthier, financially secure retirements. But if I could only change one thing, I would ensure that all families are better prepared and supported to care for one another as we age. We must make family caregiving a national priority.”
The former CEO of Disney, Michael Eisner, hopes, “If I could change anything about aging, I would create more intergenerational programs in our country. We need to find ways to utilize our aging Americans as resources, not as burdens to our economy and our society. Seniors have much to give back, primarily to low-income children, and by doing so, they can also improve their own qualities of life and their longevity. Most seniors want to remain productive and we should celebrate that.”
Our Thinking About Healthcare Will Evolve Even More Toward Wellness
Right now our healthcare system is mainly about medicine. However, modern doctors have begun to embrace good nutrition, stress reduction and exercise as powerful ways to foster health.
Experts predict that this trend will continue.
Elissa Sarah Epel is a professor at the Department of Psychiatry, University of California, San Francisco. She says, “We can increase our healthspan dramatically. We can reduce the drawn out disease-related decline that many endure in our elderly years, and transform this precious stage of life into one of thriving. Science now shows that we have all the ingredients to do this — by reducing toxic stress, improving nutrition and activity and investing in social connectivity and life purpose. This is what makes our cells happy, our minds and bodies resilient and healthy.”
Social Networks as Healthcare
Friendships, family and a sense of community are also proving to be a source of health and well being.
Mark S. Lachs, Co-Chief, Division of Geriatrics and Palliative Care and Chief, Center for Aging Research and Clinical Care at Weill Cornell Medicine and New York-Presbyterian says, “I would create an intergenerational ‘Friends are Medicine’ program, based on the compelling science that social forces vastly trump medical forces in ensuring quality of life. ”
And, Howard Gleckman advocates for, a break down of the barriers between medical treatment and the personal and social care that we need, “Nearly all older adults live with chronic illness that often can be best managed with social, non-medical supports. Thus, we need to refocus our health system to better integrate personal care with medical treatment, and develop a sustainable way to finance those supports and services.”
Money Talks — We Will Be a Force
Retirement is not going to be about fading into memory. Today’s retirees will be a force. Andy Sieg is the Head of Global Wealth and Retirement Solutions at Bank of America Merrill Lynch. He says, “The ‘Silver Economy’ is becoming an increasingly powerful force, with the spending power of 60+ consumers expected to reach $15 trillion by 2020. ”
We Will Live a Long Time
Apparently age 115 is the new 85.
Recent research suggests that age 115 may be the upper limit of longevity. (Other researchers believe that there is no limit.)
Whatever the limits may or may not be, what is for sure is that we are living longer now than ever before. This brings good and bad news. Good news that we have a long time to live and bad news that we have to figure out a way to pay for it.
It is highly recommended that you create a holistic retirement plan. The NewRetirement retirement calculator is an easy to use tool that gives you a broad range of things to think about. The system enables you to discover ways to improve your financial security — now and well into your future.