Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Future of Aging

Among the current Baby Boomer generation of those reaching 50-60, we’re beginning to see a clear divergence of life in this category -- with many continuing to “age” in the traditional pattern -- but a few beginning to break out and pioneer a category of life never lived before, and that is fully mature people who are not deteriorating.

Fortunately, these latter are still the exceptions because the rules and infrastructure are made for the majority, who are already in decline instead of reviving new lives at the age many are retiring -- but retiring to do what? -- die? The challenge is stimulating growth, and not merely trying to preserve one’s past vibrancy and youthfulness, which is a folly and waste of the experience and wisdom gained with time.

However, as many more reach advanced ages without being overly damaged by their lives, we see a critical mass of people who make that the minimum expectation, but the mistake has been in the thinking that we now need to simply aim for yet even longer-- instead of focusing on the quality of life, not only in advanced years but throughout the life span. This requires a shift in thinking about life as a qualitative experience rather than the more conventional and traditional discussions of “More” as the meaningful measure of anything, which was characteristic of life in the last century -- distinguished by more and mass.

More and mass is appropriate up to a certain point and then the distinction is not simply endlessly “More,” but “Different,” and "Better,"which is a shift in perception and thinking rather than just further accumulation of things and experience in the familiar mode. There is a quantum leap in the progression from the continued linear progression -- into something else entirely.

The present collapse we are now seeing in the values of much of what we have come to unquestionably measure and value life and progress in America and the world, is indicative of this shift in values and perceptions of future prospects. Retirees will not be spending the rest of their lives cruising around the world richly every year. Their modest homes won’t be worth castles in the future. The winner won’t be the ones with the most toys -- but no fuel to run them on.

Something has happened to make life very different. Even forums and discussions like these are evidence that life as we know it has changed and making the possibility that change can come about much more rapidly than it ever has before -- and so what is particularly important is the single highest attainment of a viable possibility, that can easily and rapidly be replicated once a prototype exists. So the challenge is no longer how we get everybody to change, but creating the possibilities of those changes that can come about almost instantaneously, once they have been created by those of vision and understanding of not only what life has been (or think it has been), but as it has never been thought possible before.


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