Three years from now, there will be more people over the age of 60 than under five. This demographic shift is dramatic, and it’s happened in a blink of an eye. As our new BFF, Dr. Laura Carstensen, Professor of Psychology and the Fairleigh S. Dickinson Jr. Professor in Public Policy at Stanford University, put it in a recent TED talk, “If you ever feel like you don’t have this aging thing quite pegged, don’t kick yourself. It’s brand new.”
Last week we pilloried a government whose policies will ensure that people’s worst fears are realized – that older people will become a strain on pension, health care and social programs.
In stark contrast, one organization is turning the world on its head – by recognizing the opportunity inherent in the aging population and what we need to do to unleash this potential.
Who? Well, WHO. The World Health Organization.
According to Dr. Margaret Chan, director-general of WHO, older people are a repository of knowledge, and a wonderful resource for their families, communities and economies. As she sees it, if we ensure older people live “healthier not just longer lives” (what she refers to as ‘stretching life in the middle and not just at the end’), then these extra years can be as productive as any others. What’s more, she says, “The societies that adapt to this changing demographic can reap a sizeable ‘longevity dividend’, and will have a competitive advantage over those who do not.”
Of course, it won’t just happen. If we want to reap the rewards, we need to make dramatic changes across the board – by discarding stereotypes of aging, changing the way we think, work and do business, and considering how the aging population intersects with other global trends, such as technology, globalization and urbanization.
In short, we need to reinvent aging. (Hmm, that sounds familiar.)
Survey after survey shows that people over 50 years of age want to stay in the flow of life. If we don’t want to create a despondent, dependent, miserable mass, what are we going to do? Following the WHO’s lead is a good start.
And tomorrow is a good time to begin. Saturday, April 7 is World Health Day. This year’s theme: “Aging and Health.” Not so much about getting enough exercise and eating your veggies (although that’s important), the WHO’s mission goes beyond “protecting and improving health as we age.” Its message to politicians, policy makers and the public is “to take action to create societies which appreciate and acknowledge older people as valued resources and enable them to participate fully.” Not just a smart way of thinking – we get this right and it will be the way of the future. Here’s to tomorrow.
Last note: We can’t think of anyone who’d make a better poster girl for the active, engaged, vital over-50 crowd – or what the WHO calls “valued resources” – than ‘The Queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll,’ Tina Turner. Here she is in a clip from her 50th anniversary world tour a few years ago when she herself was in her 70th year. Watch it, then ask yourself, what’s age got to do with it?
Pulse postscript: Two weeks ago, we invited you to submit suggestions for a new word to describe being older than 50. Warren Clements, Word Play columnist for The Globe and Mail, came up with this:
“I always liked the word ‘Solon’ – wise lawmaker, from the Athenian statesman who undid much of the damage of draconian Draco – suggesting a certain wisdom in later years. But not everyone over 50 is a lawmaker, and Solon sounds too similar to ‘so long,’ which is not a phrase to endear itself to those who check the obituaries in the morning to see whether any of their friends have died.”
Next week’s Pulse: Will Boomers save entertainment?
In April, we’re launching our first 12-week course! If you haven’t already ordered your copy of RIPE: Rich, Rewarding Work After 50, there’s still time. We’d love you to be part of this virtual Ripe Circle.
As you celebrate World Health Day, consider unleashing your inner activist.
How can you spread the word about this year’s World Health Day and what it means? What actions can each of us take that will have a positive impact on our lives as we ripen – and the lives of millions of others where we live and around the world? What’s one thing you can do to help those who dread the aging population transition from fear and helplessness to awareness of the power of active, engaged aging? (Share your ‘ripe action’ with us and we’ll pass it on!)
Keep your finger on the pulse. There’s a sign-up option in the right-hand column of this page. (Or visit juliamoulden.com and send us an email.)
Julia Moulden and Trisse Loxley have been writing and editing for the media and corporate sectors for a combined 50 years. Today, they’re reconnecting with their generation and helping their clients engage with Boomers, too.