Do you know about the “30 year bonus”? If you are in your late 50’s or 60’s you have the potential of living another 30 or 40 years! That is significantly more than our parents could ever imagine.
The average life expectancy at age 65 in this country was reported by the US Government in 2005 to be 85. And, depending on your health, vitality and life style your life expectancy may be 95 or more. If you are under 65, you may live well into your 100’s. Centenarians are currently the fastest growing segment of our population. We are indeed living longer!
Given that we have the potential of another 30 years of life after age 65, how do you want to live it? When I envision my life in the next 30 years, I want to be healthy, vital and active; I want to continue growing and learning and I want to be engaged in activities that have meaning and purpose for me. I am guessing that you want something similar. Many of our readers are not yet 65, and some of you aren’t even close. But, I bet you want to have a similar positive image of your life after 50 or 65, too. What can we do to ensure that vision of a vital, active and purposeful life is fulfilled?
Science tells us that most of our aging is influenced by our lifestyle. The good news is that we can make changes that will enhance our lives and increase our longevity. It is helpful to raise questions about our current lives– the physical, emotional, professional, personal, social and spiritual dimensions—to clarify for ourselves how we are living our lives and to identify what we may want to change so we can take advantage of that 30 year bonus.
- In our second act, many of us neglect our fitness, gain some weight and maybe find our cholesterol or blood pressure too high for good health. Of course, loss of our health is unpredictable and something of a wildcard. Yet we know that daily workouts, eating nutritious low fat meals packed with vegetables and fruits and getting 6-8 hours of sleep will help us stay strong and vital and combat serious disease and health challenges. I think most of us would prefer a span of 30 healthy vital years with a quick decline than 30 years of decay. How is your current health and fitness? Do you have a commitment to support your health and wellness? Do you need to take some action to lose weight, quit smoking, improve your diet or get more rest?
- Popular stereotypes would lead us to believe that most of us go through a mid-life crises between 40 and 60 leading to unhappiness and depression. Yet researchers who have been studying the development process of our lives report that, far from being a time of turmoil, dissatisfaction and dread of getting old, only a small percent of participants report having a midlife crises (23% in the MacArthur Foundation Research Network Study) and in many cases it had nothing to do with aging. Based on the results of this study most people are entering their sixth or seventh decades with increased feeling of well-being, equanimity, a sense of control over many parts of their lives and feeling younger than their years. An AARP study in 2006 also reports that 85% of those who have already retired are satisfied with their lives. These studies suggest that aging is not the dreaded time of our imaginations, but rather with intention and focus we can create a joyful and satisfying third act. What brings you joy, pleasure and deep satisfaction? Do you take action to lift your mood when you are feeling down so the dark clouds don’t linger in your life? Do you take time to enjoy the small pleasures of each day? How can you continue to find those emotional rewards in the coming years?
- For many of us our careers bring achievements, deep personal fulfillment and the financial rewards of success in our chosen fields. Such success may have also mean the stressful demands of long hours and hard work. Many of us have had two full time jobs – raising children and a career. When we reach 55, 60 or 65, many of us are ready to “slow down”, have more time for relaxation and to enjoy other interests. Yet some of us do not want to quit entirely or financially can’t afford to stop bringing in income. The current financial recession has impacted many of us through job losses or reduced savings. The Harris Poll and Ken Dychtwald report in 2009 that 70% of us envision retirement to include work either part time or going back and forth between periods of work and periods of leisure. 60% of participants in the study describe retirement as an “opportunity for a new, exciting chapter in life” with a startling 46% of us wanting to do something new, like start a new business or new career. Others of us want to use our professional skills in ways that contribute and make a difference to our community or to the world. Do you want or need to continue to work? Are you interested in launching something new? How much do you want or need to work? How do you want to continue using your skills, experience and your time?
- Full time work and raising a family leaves little time to pursue hobbies, leisure time activities or make contributions as a volunteer. As our family obligations are reduced and we think of working part time or even leaving our work and careers, new and exciting opportunities open up. We can pursue long delayed dreams, complete neglected projects, learn to play the piano, speak Spanish, study history, or make a meaningful contributions to causes about which we are passionate. The 60 year olds in the AARP study reported that they wanted to spend time with loved ones, engage in their interests and hobbies or make time to do what they had always wanted to do. Do you have a passion to make a difference, to contribute to your community? Do you have dreams or projects you have longed to plunge into with time to pursue and accomplish? Do you have subjects you want to explore or skills you want to learn?
- One of our most important measures of success is having loving family and friends. As we age, spending time with family and friends becomes increasingly important and a critical part of our support system which can help us stay healthy and independent. Yet, during our second act we are often so busy that these relationships suffer sometimes irreparably. The latest scientific findings reported in “Why Good Things Happen to Good People” connect generous behavior to happiness, health and longevity. As we age we have more time to contribute to the community and to causes we care about. Active involvement in volunteering also brings meaning as we serve a cause greater than ourselves. What actions are you taking to maintain connection to good friends and extended family? Do you set aside special time to spend with parents, children, grandchildren? What organizations or causes do you care about and how are you contributing your time and skills to be involved?
- The multi-tasking, over-scheduled life cruising on auto-pilot leaves little time to explore the questions of deeper meaning in our lives. We may be burned out, disenchanted with the “rewards” of climbing the corporate ladder, demands of travel; or when time does emerge, we are often at a loss, drifting and feeling somehow empty of purpose and direction. Many of us may feel that somehow during our second act, we set aside something important we want to retrieve. Or after our children leave home, we need something else to give our lives meaning and purpose. The experts suggest that the changes that matter during this time are more often spiritual and psychological. Are you asking what you are called to do and what will provide meaning and purpose in this next phase of your life? Is your life fulfilled and guided by your spiritual beliefs? Have you found purpose and meaning in making a contribution to something greater than you are?
Regardless of how close you are to 65, you can not apply for your 30 year bonus unless you are even now taking steps to clarify and enhance your life in these areas. There are several websites listed below which enable you to enter information about your health and your life style to determine your virtual age and your life expectancy. I encourage you to try one. I found it both surprising and motivating. According to the longevity calculator, I might be living to 103! (I hadn’t really thought about living past 90!) And it reminded me of the short cuts I take when I am busy and distracted that potentially take health and years off my life. What is your virtual age? Your life expectancy? Will you be taking advantage of the 30 year bonus? Let me know your results.