My life’s direction changed completely about 14 years ago when I reluctantly became involved with a research programme looking at the changing nature of later life. Before then I was fully committed to the belief instilled in us from birth – you grow up, you work hard and at 65 you retire – then you may have a few more years before you die.
Through working with the researchers I came to realize that this wasn’t the case and eventually I came across one fact that summed it all up – collated and published by the United Nations – it puts it all in perspective.
In the last 50 years global life expectancy has increased by 50%
Working out what this means for me and you, and what we should do about it is now my passion. Here are some thoughts to ponder.
Living longer, thanks to improvements in such things as health and hygiene, is the main reason the world’s population has increased by 50% in the last 25 years.
There aren’t just more of us on the planet. By 2050 one in four of us will be over 65 so:-
You can forget ‘retirement’ – for the last 140 years we have looked on 65 as the time to retire – but for people starting work today 65 will probably be celebrated as their ‘halfway stage’ of working life.
At least I can look forward to an inheritance. Ummmm – NO. With government finances under pressure today’s elderly are increasingly being required to use any savings they have put aside to pay for care.
What if they haven’t spent it all? Then they are likely to still be around so when you do inherit it may be too late to make a significant difference.
You can expect to be swamped by ‘stuff’. A combination of post war austerity and consumerism means that year on year we acquire more possessions that we are reluctant to discard so living 50% longer means our pile of possessions keeps growing
What if you have no where to keep them all? No problem – shortage of space has created the self storage industry – now you can keep on buying without having to look at the consequences.
What about paying for it all? – no problem there either – the banks have created the consumer credit industry so you will still be paying long after the item has been discarded.
One bit of good news is that thanks to advances in medical research we have access to incredible health care – not so good news is that we will need it. With the state retirement age heading rapidly towards 80 plus looking after our long term health is now essential.
I could go on but I think you get the idea – living longer changes almost everything. Luckily, much of this is predictable so by working through the implications it is possible to re-set our expectations for later life and work towards making the most of this extraordinary opportunity.