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Redesigning Life and Aging Purposefully

Posted by Thomas Edwards on December 12, 2019 1:45 PM EST
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I was delighted to read the Opinions section of The Washington Post Weekly  this past Sunday, December 8, 2019 about the research done by the Stanford Center on Longevity.....

...and it's findings and recommendations for helping our sociey craft a new way to think and build our culture around the positive phenomenon of the last century of American average life expectancies increasing by thirty years.  The article was written by Laura L. Christensen, a professor of psychology and director of the Stanford Center of Longevity, so there is more than a little credibility in her article.  (The article was titled "We need a major redesign of life").

After reading the article a couple of times, I have to admit that I found her concept of imagining a life redesign driven by a wholesale change in critical social systems and in cultural redefinition of lives well-lived as interesting and worth sharing with others. Ergo, I'm sharing the key excerpts from a rather lengthy article with you in today's blog post.  

So, here are the key excerpts that define the concept:

"Thirty years were added to average life expectancy in the 20th century, and rather than imagine the scores of ways we could use these years to improve quality of life, we tacked them on all on at the end.  Only old age got longer."

"In my view, the tension surrounding aging is due largely to the speed with which life expectancy increased."

"Long lives are not the problem.  The problem is living in cultures designed for lives half as long as the ones we have."

"How do traditional models of education, work, lifestyles, social relationships, financial planning, health care, early childhood and intergenerational compacts need to change to support long lives?"

"...there should be many routes.  Interweaving leisure, work, education and family throughout life, takikng people from birth to death with places to stop, rest, change courses and repeat steps along the way.  Old age alone wouldn't last longer; rather, youth and middle age would expand, too."

"Work, too, must change.  There's every reason to expect ore zigzagging in and out of the labor force-especially by employees who are caring for young children or elderly parents-and more participation by workers over 60.  There is good reason to think we will work longer, but we can improve work quality with shorter workweeks, flexible scheduling and frequent "retirements"."

"Maintaining physical fitness from the beginning to the end of life will be parmount."

"Longer lives present us with an opportunity to redesign the way we live.  The greatest risk of failure is setting the bar too low."

While this series of excerpts from the article seem theoretical and somewhat futuristic, the facts are what they are.  And rethinking and innovating around the key elements that change yet are critical at every stage of life and preparing for longer lives in advance is much like the fable of the grasshopper and the ant.  Getting started way ahead of time is the best path for living a long life well.  And for those of us already at an advanced age....well think like an optimist...we get a shot at setting the baseline for working longer, and creating a robust life even without the big headstart our kids and their kids have :).

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