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Turning 100: More thoughts on the possibilities of living longer

Last week, we identified several changes and predictions that support living to be 100 described by Lynda Gratton and Andrew Scott in their book, “The 100-Year Life: Living and Working in an Age of Longevity” (Bloomsbury, 2016).

For context, here are some statistics: In the U.S. there are about 90,000 centenarians; in California, that number is 8,000. And about half of the current five-year-olds can expect to live to age 100, the likely norm for newborns in 2050.

The question is, “What has to be in place to support this 100-year life?” Here are several additional changes from last week that need to occur as recommended by the authors.

Recreation will be more important than creation: Leisure time during retirement years typically has meant having few if any deadlines; a time for travel; grandchildren; even sailing; playing computer games; watching a film; or just having fun. The authors suggest that with increased longevity and multiple life stages, leisure time may be the time to invest in creating a new lifestyle or in developing new skills. The new goal may be spending less leisure time on consumption and recreation and more time on investment and re-creation.

The lockstep 3 stages of life will end: Most of us have lived by the three stages of education, work and retirement leading to a certain amount of predictability in our lives. The authors note that adhering to these three rigid stages, people do not have excessive opportunities or choices and companies or governments are not always able to response to what people want and need. Given the reality of living 100 years, the sequences of life will be determined more by individual preferences and circumstances, not by age.

Younger for longer: Typically, we believe living longer means we will have more years to live as an older person. The authors disagree and offer an explanation. Based on information from evolutionary biologists, retaining adolescent features into adulthood will help promote flexibility and adaptability needed for a 100-year life. Additionally, they suggest older people will retain more youthful characteristics because of cross-age friendships since people of different ages will pursue similar life stages. From my perspective, this might eradicate ageism.

There will be more experimentation: Neither individuals, communities, corporations nor governments have figured out how to support the 100-year life. To fill this vacuum, there will be more experimentation. The authors note the younger one is, the more likely one is to experiment. Midlife folks might be more likely to adapt to the traditional three stages of life experienced by their parents, they added. From my perspective, we should not dismiss the creativity of middle-aged folks to develop some of these new lifestyles.

The expected battle from human resources departments: This flexibility and the multi-stage life may become a nightmare for companies who like conformity and easy-to-implement systems; they likely will resist change. However, the authors do believe that smart companies who want to attract the best and the brightest will realize the advantages and adapt their policies. This push to flexibility may become a battleground similar to battles about the length of the work week and working conditions during the Industrial Revolution, according to Gratton and Scott.

The challenge for governments: Too much of the current policy is focused on the final stage of life using the traditional three-stage lens note Gratton and Scott. Policies need to expand to issues of education, marriage, working time and more. Clearly, financial security is critical over this long life. However, the authors advocate that governments need to pursue an agenda relevant to how people live their lives and how they work over a lifetime.

A final issue addressed is equity. The authors are very strong in stating that “it is unacceptable that a good life should only be an option for a privileged minority” who have the income and education to develop the required changes and transitions. They recommend that governments begin to develop measures for the less fortunate to achieve the transitions and flexibilities for that 100-year-life.

So, dear readers, I hope these changes and recommendations by Gratton and Scott help you think about extended life, its possibilities and how they might apply to you. Our communities, institutions and public policies have the opportunity to do what is necessary to capitalize and embrace this gift of time. We each have a role to play in how we develop our own life stages.

Stay well everyone and remember kindness is everything.

Helen Dennis is a nationally recognized leader on issues of aging and the new retirement with academic, corporate and nonprofit experience. Contact Helen with your questions and comments at Visit Helen at and follow her on


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