May 13, 2018

THE FUTURE OF GETTING OLD: Rethinking Old Age.

Today, our perception of age is changing more than ever. Thanks to advancements in science, medicine and technology, we may be living longer – well into our 70s, 80s and even 90s – and accordingly we will need to continue to redefine what it means to be “old.” These advances also present an opportunity to start thinking about a not-too-distant future where aging may not mean losing vitality and functionality physically, mentally and emotionally but maintaining or even gaining it as members of a new generation making meaningful contributions to society. . . .

In addition to physical and mental health, a sense of emotional fulfillment is critical if we want to live well as we age. Researchers have found that a sense of purpose in life may slow some aspects of the aging process. Study participants who reported a feeling of purpose were found to have maintained their hand grip and walking speeds (two common indicators of functionality that may decline with age) better than those who felt less committed.

And because we may be living longer, we may have more time to pursue our purpose. Age specialists have identified an entirely new stage of life, called gerontolescence, which is defined as age 50 to 75. An increasing number of adults are experiencing this phase of self-discovery and identification as a kind of “second adolescence.” For some, this could mean new careers or pursuing long-dormant hobbies.

“The later stage of your life can be just as rewarding, even more so, than the previous parts,” says John Irving, Distinguished Scholar in Residence at the USC Davis School of Gerontology and the Chairman of the Milken Institute Center for the Future of Aging. Rather than focusing on the limiting aspects of aging, seeing possibilities-whether it’s the time to start a new career, pursue a cause, or just spend more time with family-can go a long way toward maintaining emotional health, and physical and mental health in the process.

I’d rather just not age.

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