Traditionally this blob has been considered to be the beginning of old-age, as seen from the point of view of the three life stages: ‘education’, ‘work-life’ and ‘retirement’. Yet today, members of this Blob are much different than those of earlier generations. In a special report on longevity the magazine “The Economist” discusses several possibilities of naming persons in this age group, suggesting labels such as Geriactives, Sunsetters, Nightcappers, Nyppies (Not Yet Past It) or Owls (Older, Working Less, Sill earning). Yet none of these seem to do justice to this new generation of ‘Young Elders’. The traditional retirement of age of 65 (first 70) was established by Otto von Bismarck in the 1880s, when the average life expectancy in Prussia was 45. Today the average life expectancy in OECD countries is in the early 80s, but still most countries stick to the, now, relatively young age of 65 for retirement, ignoring the fact that 90% of the 65 year olds are usually in good health and half of the following 20 years are expected to be free of disability.
Many of these Young Elders can not afford to, or do not want to, retire and withdraw from active life just yet. They want to work and strive financial security, but with more flexibility. For them, it is a time for re-creation instead of recreation, as described very fittingly in the thought provoking new-age book “The 100 year life- living and working in an age of longevity”- that was shortlisted in the Financial Times as the “Business Book of the year” in 2016. Some occupations may not have a natural retirement age, thus politicians, business leaders and artists stay vigorous even beyond the ‘retirement age’. But for others, this may be the time to learn something new, to re-create, to be able to stay in the workforce. Or to build on their network and use their maturity and experience to offer coaching and consulting services. Many Young Elders have also found Airbnb as a valuable source of additional income. They are the fastest-growing group of hosts on the site and receive the highest ratings.
But for now, the life of a majority of Young Elders is changed dramatically at the end of this Blob. They either retire themselves, or their spouses do, thus bringing about major changes in routines and relationships. When they look back at life, some may feel satisfied and content with what they have achieved, others may feel a sense of despair. In any case, begins a time of contemplation on how to proceed in the following years and prepare for retirement. Some may decide to take it easy and spend the coming years on hobbies, socializing and grandchildren, whilst others may look towards alternative sources of income. Either way, they remain strong net contributors to the economy and according to McKinsey, 59% of consumption growth in cities between now and 2030 will be coming from the over-60s age group.
Life expectancy at 65 years in the EU-28 states is on average 18 years for men and 21 years for women, but with activity limitations. Researchers now differentiate between active life expectancy and dependent life expectancy, which can be described as being the difference between adding life to years vs. adding years to life. With improvements in living standards and medicine, these numbers are changing for the better every year. Generally, life expectancy is influenced not only by the chosen lifestyle, but also by genetic, environmental, ethnic and gender factors. There also seems to be a relationship between average life expectancy and body weight. According to a study by Yang in 2008 those with normal body weight at 65 have a comparably longer life expectancy than those who are overweight. In the graphs below you can see the average expected healthy life years for men and women in the EU respectively.:
Physically, the body does begin to show more signs of aging and health problems may increase. Skin wrinkles further and there is further deterioration in smell and taste. Approximately one-third of people over the age of 65 have hearing loss with the ability to distinguish between high and low-frequency diminishing. By the time adults reach age 65, they need 20 percent fewer calories than they did in their youth, but they still need the same amount of nutrients, often resulting in elders being overweight, but at the same time undernourished. This makes the usage of supplementary vitamins and regular medicine prevelant. But, on a positive note, many may notice that with age they become less sensitive to pain.
Mentally, according to a report from Johns Hopkins Health Alert, loss of brain volume continues resulting in cognitive changes that began in the 50s to become more noticeable in the 60s. Thus it becomes more difficult to learn new information or master complex mental tasks. It becomes harder to concentrate and to “tune out” distractions and memory worsens. Retrieving information and adding to it becomes increasingly difficult.
Click here for Blob 12: Independent Elder
Understand why the 7-year life stages are outdated in this Blog.
RESOURCES AND REFERENCES
The 100 year life- living and working in an age of longevity by Lynda Gratton and Andrew Scott
Life expectancy at age 65, 1980–2013 from Eurostat Statistics
Healthy life years statistics from Eurostat Statistics
Your memory Timeline by Johns Hopkins Health Alert for Maturity Matters
The Financial Burden of Overweight and Obesity among Elderly Americans: The Dynamics of Weight, Longevity, and Health Care Cost by Zhou Yang and Allyson G Hall