Wednesday, June 08, 2011
The Longevity Paradox
I'm worried about aging. There, I said it. I might be the Defying-Gravity gal, but I'm as afraid as the next person of outliving my money, my loved ones and perhaps even my usefulness.
Keep in mind that I'm luckier than most--a member of an all-too-exclusive group of people who have investments, health insurance and an extensive, multigenerational support network. An alarming percentage of my close friends lack at least one of the three, and I can't even count the number of my acquaintances for whom retirement is not even an option.
What I'm getting at is that as much as I believe in letting our passions guide us as we segue from one stage of life to another, I realize that heroic reinvention is still the exception rather than the rule.
Part of the problem is that boomers are caught in a longevity paradox.
We want to remain independent, but our savings are insufficient. We want to stay vigorous, but our bodies are starting to breaking down. We want to preserve the environment, but we continue to consume a disproportionate share of nonrenewable resources. And, as I said above, many of us need to stay in the workforce, but doing so leaves little time for personal exploration and fewer jobs available for our children and grandchildren. (That's my husband and granddaughter in the photo above.)
Until we as a society address these contradictions, far too many of us will spend our final years living hand to mouth or wasting away in nursing homes rather than doing meaningful work or traveling the globe. The most vulnerable among us will continue to fall through the cracks.