The BBC is reporting today on a study that shows Ageing rates vary widely. According to the report by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, even people born within a year of each other experienced a huge gulf in the speed at which their bodies age.
I was particularly struck by the finding that some 38-year olds were ageing so badly that their biological age was “on the cusp of retirement.” The study subjects were 954 people from New Zealand born between 1972 and 1973. 18 ageing-related traits were examined as the members of the group turned 26, 32 and 38. So in the case of the 38-year-old cohort, the “biological age” ranged from the late 20s to “nearly 60” — hence the “cusp of retirement” verbiage.
In some cases, the subjects appeared to virtually stop ageing while they found that others gained almost three years of biological age for every 12 months that passed. Those with older biological ages were found to perform worse in tests of brain function, and also tended to have a weaker grip.
Issues of fairness and egalitarianism
Professor Terrie Moffitt of the US-based Duke University told the BBC that the (traditional) retirement age may be unfair for those “working at their peak” who then had to retire. She also said “Any area of life where we currently use chronological age is faulty; if we knew more about biological age we could be more fair and egalitarian.” Researchers said they didn’t expected to find such differences so early in life but the findings could help research on slowing the pace of ageing.
Moffitt suggested that in order to slow the process of ageing to prevent the onset of disease, “we’re going to have to intervene with young people.”
Greater lifespan implies longer “workspan”
Here at the Financial Independence Hub, we house blogs like this one under the label “Longevity & Aging,” which reflects our feeling that many of us may live longer than we had once envisaged. As I said in a recent talk to an elder planning conference in Niagara Falls, it may make sense to add perhaps ten years to your expected longevity. So if you always felt you would live to 90, try the thought experiment of extending it to 100 and see if that changes your financial projections on retirement. I argued that greater lifespan should imply a greater “workspan,” and that even if you split the difference that would suggest working an extra five years, and therefore “retiring” that much later.
A blog spun out of the talk can be found here at the Hub under the heading Financial planners and eldercare professionals targeting aging Boomers.
Of course, we at the Hub don’t particularly believe in traditional full-stop retirement but instead in financial independence, multiple streams of income and a gradual “phased” retirement where one gradually ratchets down working hours.
If ageing rates vary widely, so too will readiness for Retirement
What this research highlighted by the BBC seems to indicate to me is that if ageing rates do indeed vary widely, then so too will the retirement age. Some people look old and tired by their early 60s and appear happy to withdraw from the workforce while others of the same chronological age are full of vigour and working as hard as ever, not necessarily in the corporate trenches but in their own endeavours that we highlight here at the Hub’s “Encore Acts” section.
An example is Monday’s blog by former banker Michael Drak, who in his early 60s described his plans to launch a writing and speaking career (one I share, being the same age).