Advances in health care have added years to our life. However, Laura Carstensen, founding director of the Stanford Center on Longevity and author of A Long Bright Future, proclaims it is time to add more life to our years.
In a recent Op Ed piece for the Wall Street Journal, Carstensen issued this challenge:
Given the option of a 30-year life extension, who would apply it only to old age? Yet, this is precisely what we’re doing. Life expectancy nearly doubled in the 20th century, with all those extra years tacked on at the end. Instead of thinking imaginatively about this unprecedented opportunity, we tend to wring our hands at the thought of populations top-heavy with the elderly.
Others have laid the foundation for a new perspective on our longevity revolution including Helen Harkness, Ph.D. who wrote nearly two decades ago that we should reject the view that living longer extends old age:
If these extra years are handled wisely, our middle age will double dramatically into a new second midlife, while our ‘old’ age shrinks.
Because of this, Harkness advises that we think about these extra years as a precious gift and to “take an active hand in managing our windfall.”
Similarly, in an article titled “The Resolution of a Lifetime,” Carstensen explained that “people are happiest when they feel embedded in something larger than themselves and when they are needed.”
Therefore, she encourages everyone living in the second half of life to envision the steps—large and small—that they can take to ensure a bright future:
Our record-length lives afford us the chance to redesign the way we live and write a life script for lifetimes that last a century. It won’t be a story about old age—it will be a story about long life.
In addition, Carstensen has come to believe that the actions of today’s generation of older people will set the course for decades. New perspectives and positive change on the individual level can have a transformative influence on the societal level. Her best advice for living a long bright future is the following:
Invest in yourself by learning something new. Design your world so that healthy habits come naturally. Diversify your social network by befriending a person from a different generation. Start a business that puts others to work. Think creatively about ways that an unprecedented number of mature, talented, healthy adults can address society’s great challenges.
Reprinted by permission of Money Quotient, NP