Sunday, August 5, 2012

How Living Longer Will Change Most Everything

How would it change your life if you knew you were going to live to be over 100 years old? Futurist Sonia Aronson, a senior fellow at the Pacific Research Institute and a columnist for Tech News Now, has written a new book that previews some of the changes that are predicted in coming years as people around the globe live longer. In 100+: How the Coming Age of Longevity Will Change Everything From Careers and Relationships to Family and Faith (Basic Books, 2011), Aronson presents trends to watch for that will reshape our lives significantly.

In 2010, Monaco was the top country for life expectancy, with the average citizen living 89.78 years. Rounding out the top 10 were  Macau, San Marino, Andorra, Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong, Australia, Canada, and France. Genetic makeup can help us to avoid cardiovascular disease, insulin resistance, and high blood pressure. Lifestyle and behavioral choices also contribute to the mix. In the future, Aronson predicts, most people will live beyond 100.

As more people live past 100 years of age, more changes will occur in families. Increases in fertility technology is expected to continue to extend the fertility window for women and couples. The trend of later marriage, which has been on the rise for decades, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, will continue. In the U.S., the age at first marriage is currently 28 for men and 26 for women. This age is expected to get even later as people live longer, with  both men and women seeking to establish a career and independence before marriage. More delays on both marriage and parenting are predicted in the future.

Research by the MacArthur Foundation and the University of Pennsylvania's Transitions to Adulthood Study predict later marriages will be qualitatively different, with more existance of the individuals involved, and relationships that appear more like the choreographed routines of pairs ice skating, incorporating both individual and couples' moves. More people are expected to make better and later marital choices.

Authors Linda Perlman and Susan Morris Shaffer, in their book, Mom,Can I Move Back In With You?, suggest a new term they coined called "adultescence," covering what was formerly a clearer transition from adolescence to adulthood between ages 18 and 20, to the new prolonged transition to adulthood which can take considerably longer. This transition can involve cycles of education, moving out, working, and moving back in with family. This trend is expected to continue and lengthen.

Dr. Helen Fisher, a Rutgers University anthropology professor and author of The Anatomy of Love (and also expert advisor to, the dating website), is quoted in Aronson's book as noting an interesting statistic about the family change of divorce. Divorce, she notes, is primarily for the young, with 81% of all divorces for women finished by age 45. For men, 75% are done with divorce by age 45. Divorce is still most common in our 20's. If we don't marry until later, one can wonder if it will reduce the frequency of divorce.

As people marry later, people may choose more suitable partners. Alternatively, increased years may create the possibility of more break-ups and remarriages. Experts agree that in the future there will be more diversity in family living arrangements, with more non-biologically related individuals building family units.

In the future, more of us will have the gift of a "third age," a set of bonus years that previous generations didn't have, in which to cultivate wisdom and self-awareness. People will work longer, with periodic time off for job re-training and more education. Retirement will be redefined and delayed. There will be more of an emphasis on saving for unanticipated illness or economic instability. There will be increasing questions about the massive costs for end-of life healthcare. Staying up to date and competitive in the marketplace will continue to be critically important. The work force will incorporate more older workers, who tend to be more patient than their younger co-workers.

The extension of fertility and increased longevity will create bigger age gaps between siblings. This will create different  family bonds and dynamics, with less shared memories and history as siblings move more than 5, 10, 15, or even 20 years in age difference. Due to increased contraception and wealth, the number of children per woman of childbearing age is expeted to continue to decrease.

Aronson even tackles predicting what will happen to faith in a shift to longer lives. She forsees more religious shifts at different seasons of our lives as people live longer and evolve with their experiences over time. She feels fewer people will reliably stick with one faith their whole hundred-plus year life cycle.

100 Plus is a fascinating read, and fun to consider how our lives, careers, and family experiences will continue to change in response to longer time here on Earth. It sounds like it's time to take better care of ourselves, because we may have more time ahead of us than we realize. I guess I knew this already, as my  99 year old grandmother lives close to us, still reading the newspapers and staying on top of the trends. Take good care of your body, mind, and spirit. It looks like we may need all of this original equipment later.

1 comment:

  1. This article was so interesting to read. I am completely fascinated by the facts presented through biobanking software and how certain genetics may prolong the life of the heir. It is really amazing what research can not only tell you, but prove. Personally, I wouldn't mind living longer and I'd think my best years would come as you described above in the latter of my days when I am fully aware of my likes, dislikes and personality. Thanks for sharing with us