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.


  1. There is no need to live hand to mouth if we have prepared for this time in our life. I will be 77 in two weeks (June 21st) and husband of 51 years just turned 81. We have our aches and pains, but we still are productive. He was a pharmacist and worked until about 5 years ago. Now, we are retired. He does lots of the housework along with me and grocery shops and we go and visit our two younger grandchildren 80 miles away every 3rd Sunday.A long and tiring drive, but is well worth it to see Ava age almost 4 and Ethan almost 6. When they say
    "I love you grammie and grandpa" the ride means nothing, because at the end of the journey there are their two beautiful faces for us to gaze upon and to be reinvigorated.

    This Sunday, we are going back to do something we love ( he will not admit to that). We are going back to our ballroom dancing Sunday tea dance and even if we only dance five dances, we and especially me will be victorious just being there. We have not been there for almost one year because I slipped going down a curb last July 2nd and hurt my knee. I am better now and I have been encouraged by my orthopedic doctor and my regular doctor to go and try and whatever dance, even if it is only one or two we do for this first time in 12 month period, that will be just fine.

    We go out to eat, shop, read books and I write articles online on webs and blogs encouraging everyone to go and learn to ballroom dance regardless of their 'now' age. So Sunday, I will do finally what I preach to others via the internet- go and DANCE.

    I have just lost 30 lbs. with Weight Watchers and this Sunday July 12th, they have written me up for my loss and for my outside activities such as the ballroom dance article which makes me a well rounded (no pun intended) person.This write-up will appear in their weekly magazine given to the members all over the country about people who come to WW and are successful.The article on the back page of the magazine is
    called A STAR BRAVO. So this Sunday, June 12th, I will be a star with Weight Watchers magazine and getting back to ballroom dancing.Sunday is 6-12. If you add 6 plus 12, it equals 18 which in Hebrew means Chai and Chai means LIFE. Life is what we are doing-Jerry and Elita Clayman

    So Jerry and I still kvetch ( complain) sometimes with aching backs and knees, but we are still vibrant, vigorous and full of vim and vitality.

    Elita Sohmer Clayman Baltimore, Maryland

  2. Love your attitude, Elita! You're the kind of person I write about and interview for my TV show. And I love the effort you're making to stay healthy. Hopefully, I'll still be as active as you are when I'm 77. That said, I worry about people who are less fortunate than we are.

  3. Hi Prill, I follow Abraham-Hicks posts, and immediately one was triggered by your comment that "we want to stay in the workforce, but doing so leaves fewer jobs available for our children and grandchildren." I found 3, but I'm sure there are more that would apply:
    Abraham: "What anyone else has or does not have has nothing to do with you. The only thing that affects your experience is the way you utilize the Non-Physical Energy with your thought. Your abundance or lack of it in your experience has nothing to do with what anybody else is doing or having. It has only to do with your perspective. It has only to do with your offering of thought. If you want your fortunes to shift, you have to begin telling a different story."
    "When others achieve Vibrational alignment with something they desire, they in no way deprive you of your desires. If your time-space reality has inspired a desire within you, it is certain that your desire can be fulfilled, for your Earth environment has the potential of satisfying the essence of all desires."
    "You could remain in these bodies indefinitely if you would allow your environment to continue to produce new, continuing, life-summoning desire. You could be one who opened your vortex to continually find new things to want, and those desires would continue to summon Life Force through you: you are living raucously, you are living joyously, you are living rambunctiously, you are living passionately... And then, from that same framework -- you make a conscious decision to make your transition."

  4. Your comment is well taken, Julie. :-) The heart, I believe, is a compass and perhaps the most powerful force on earth. But there's a level of reality where one person's actions affect another's and where governmental policies directly influence people's lives. That's the level I'm addressing here.

  5. Hi Prill, Regarding the aches and pains of "getting old" I recommend you connect with Mimi Kirk. She's 72 and was just voted the "sexiest vegetarian over 50" - winning over women two decades younger than her. She looks fantastic, claims to have no aches and pains or arthritis, etc. Truly an inspiration.

  6. Hi Callie-- I've actually heard of Mimi, and you're right that she's an inspiration. Our health has much to do with our choices. She's an example of that. But part of our health is genetically determined. Lots of people who are super conscientious in terms of diet and exercise get cancer, arthritis, etc. I'd love to see a health-care system in this country that encourages, perhaps even incentivizes, good choices, but also provides care at a reasonable cost for those who do fall ill. It saddens me to see people go bankrupt because of their medical bills.

  7. My purpose in writing this post was simply to call attention to some of the real-world issues facing boomers today. Solving these problems begins with identifying them. I want to do whatever I can to help create a social environment where people of all different ages and backgrounds have the financial liberty, health and time to hear what their hearts are trying to tell them and take action. Yes, it's possible to pursue a dream without any of these elements in place. But it's much more difficult. Part of what I've tried to do on this blog, on my website and on my Facebook "fan" page is to direct people to resources that will help them "defy gravity" even when the odds are against them.