An Aging World: Not to be obsessed

We’ve mentioned Mark Venning and several times in this site as well as sister site His insights on Aging and Longevity are a big reason why we have included a regular section of the Hub on this topic. One of his aphorisms is particularly insightful and directly related to financial planning and financial independence: “Plan for longevity, not retirement.

As the previous blog in this section (by Doug Dahmer)  explained, the fatal flaw in most retirement plans is failing to take into account extended longevity. Mark also regularly writes on this theme, as in a recent piece on Financing Longevity, which also provides a nod to the Financial Independence Hub.

Below, specially for the Hub, Mark has composed a year-end reflection on these themes, based on his recent travels. We hope to run more like this in the new year!

Mark Venning,

By Mark Venning,

Special to the Financial Independence Hub

Hardly a day goes by that there isn’t some symposium, book or report (not to mention a blog post or three like this one) about an aging world, longevity and retirement. You can even Google search longevity calculators that can project how long you can expect to live. It’s an aging obsession.

As Ted C. Fishman says in his 2010 book, Shock of Gray – “…although the aging world is the sum of choices made by large populations, how we navigate the future of this world – how we love and care for ourselves and those we cherish – will also be an intensely personal matter.”

Over several visits to Italy, one of the European countries with already a higher percentage of population over 65, it has been a quiet interest of mine to be a silent observer of how others seem to be navigating aging in their own small worlds in places like Venice,  for example. Not to be obsessed, just to observe. No blog – bell, book or candle.

Women Walking Venice
Women walking in Venice; Photo credit Mark Venning

Of all places that speak to navigating an aging world, it is Venice. As I prowl the lesser toured neighbourhoods, I can’t help but notice the number of older women who in a quiet walk, go shopping dressed in their best, in a guarded tolerance of tourists, edgily moving as if with the undulations of the acqua alta.

Learning the Art of Slow

In one morning scenario, as I stood in awe on a bridge in Santa Croce, a sudden shout came from behind – “scusi, uscire di strada!” An 80-ish woman, shopping bag in hand, arm in arm with her son sauntered purposefully over that bridge as they likely do most days without me. I reminisced about my mother and me – the same, out shopping years ago. Yes, sometimes it is an intensely personal matter. We have to learn the art of slow.

Perhaps as we end one year and look to the next, we can reflect past the age calculators, financial prescriptions and “70 is the new 50” mantras. Can we begin to think about how ultimately we need to recalibrate and navigate the future of an aging world – from how we build age-friendly community, to how we value a care-giving economy?


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