The Ageless Generation

Jane Fonda at the Jane Fonda Hand And Foot Print Ceremony as part of the 2013 TCM Classic Film Festival, TCL Chinese Theater, Hollywood, CA 04-27-13
Jane Fonda in 2013

Are the Baby Boomers part of the Ageless Generation?

Many of us seem to act as if that were the case but there’s little doubt most of us feel younger than we appear. To me, the poster child for this ageless generation is Jane Fonda, whose famous workout videos appear to have held her in good stead in her personal twilight career.

(Technically, since she was born in 1937, Jane Fonda is not a post-war baby boomer but her spirit certainly seems to epitomize the zeitgeist of the generation that came soon after her).

If you get Netflix check out the recently released series Grace & Frankie, where  Fonda plays a 70-year old recent divorcee: even though she herself is actually 77! Equally vibrant are her aging costars: Lilly Tomlin, Martin Sheen and Sam Waterston (best known as the prosecutor on Law & Order). Tomlin is 75 and the two male co-stars are 74.

Medical advances will transform the global economy


The Ageless Generation also happens to be the title of a recent (2013) book by Dr. Alex Zhavornonkov, director of the Biogerontology Research Foundation and founder of the International Aging Research Portfolio. It’s one of about a dozen books I read in recent months in preparation for a talk on Longevity that I gave on Monday to the National Elder Planning Issues Conference in Niagara Falls.

The book’s subtitle summarizes the gist of it: How advances in biomedicine will transform the global economy. Since the focus is on the United States, it will come as no surprise that  Zhavornonkov believes breakthroughs in extending Longevity can only make a shaky Social Security and Medicare system that much more fragile in the United States, and by extension their equivalent programs in other advanced nations.

Pressure on Social Security & Medicare

Investors take note of this passage from the book’s introduction:

“ … senior entitlement programs, such as Social Security and Medicare, are financially unsustainable at present levels. If spending on these programs is allowed to increase unchecked, the resulting global financial crisis could be far greater than anything previously seen in history.”

Got your attention yet? Remember, this book was published five years AFTER the 2008 financial crisis, so it appears the author feels that the economic impact of longevity are going to put us all in uncharted waters. Insurance company executives selling annuities and employers with Defined Benefit pension plans take note!

Postponing Retirement via longer Workspans

Naturally, Zhavornonkov thinks we need to redefine the word retirement or at least push back the date of its arrival beyond the standard age 65. “If tomorrow’s 65-year-olds were as healthy as 55-year-olds today, seniors could work an extra ten years if they chose to so so,” he writes.  By paying into Social Security etc. a while longer, the problems could be pushed decades into the future.

It’s a bit circular to be sure. Medical breakthroughs extend not just longevity and lifespan but the human “workspan,” and that in turn provides more years of tax revenue for governments, thereby alleviating the cost of entitlements. And Zhavornonkov even foresees a virtuous circle: each time a breakthrough raises life expectancy, the extra time could be devoted to still more research and longer work lives, and on and on.

The author calls for a change in what he calls the Retirement Culture, which he says is “rapidly becoming obsolete in the new reality of the twenty-first century … For the vast majority of the population, working past age 65 — in some cases, far beyond age 65 — will become the new norm in the twenty-first century.”

Encore Careers to the rescue

I can hear a few groans out there, and I suspect they are coming from people who don’t really feel engaged in their current professions. If that’s the case, check out the Encore Acts blogs on the Hub. If indeed we are to be blessed with longer and healthier lifespans as well as longer workspans, it makes sense to find a congenial career, even if it means going back to school and retraining for it.

longevityfactorActually, this trend has been apparent for longer than you may think. Pictured is another book I bought on Amazon, called The Longevity Factor, by Dr. Lydia Bronte. The subtitle tells it all: The New Reality of Long Careers and How it Can Lead to Richer Lives. We will likely review it in due course.

For now, however, let me close by ‘fessing up to the publishing date.

1993: Yes, 22 years ago!

One thought on “The Ageless Generation

  1. People used to worry about how long they could expect to live now they are starting to worry about living too long. The best way to manage longevity risk is to stay healthy and work at something you love for as long as you can.

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