Living to 100+
With increased longevity, people today are living an “elongated life” to 100+. Indeed, some people believe that if you’re born in the 21st century, you are likely to live to 150! As a result, traditional benchmarks that people associated with chronological ages, such as that retirement takes place at 65 years of age, no longer apply to an increasing number of people. We need to change our life-stage framework.
Statements such as “today’s 65 is 45 years of age”, miss the point. The issue is that our life-stages are reset. A hundred years ago, most people expected to “finish” the basic developmental education after High School (around age 18); today, most adolescents expect to stay also attend college and graduate after age 21. Many aging “experts” only focus on the audience of people 50 years of age and older. We believe such aggregation is a disservice to understanding people’s psych-social challenges.
The Elongated Life Framework
Following the lead of Erik Erickson, Gail Sheehy and Daniel Levenson, who proposed psychosocial developmental stages that people gradually move through, we offer the “elongated life” framework. The focus of this framework is not on chronological ages, but different life events. It includes:
- Childhood: The period from birth to adolescence, which today starts in the pre-teen years and focuses on developing one’s initial sense of identity.
- Adolescence: The period associated with post-elementary school during which we develop a stronger sense of identity, especially in terms of interpersonal and societal relations, usually continuing to live with our parents/caretakers.
- Young Adulthood: After we complete our Adolescent stage of life (e.g., finish High School or College), we need to make an initial decision as to what job/career we want, where want to live, etc., and declare our independence from the prior “nest”.
- Middle Adulthood: We decide to “settle down” with a career and/or family; and our life is focused on supporting ourselves and significant others with a job/career we want. This is the stage during which parenting takes place.
- Mature Adulthood: Having raised our children to college and preparing them for (some) self-sufficiency as young adults, we can shift our focus to how we can live fulfilling lives going forward (i.e., “It’s our time”). Do we continue working at the current job, start a new career, or be an entrepreneur? Do we retire from work, part-time or full-time in order to spend more time traveling, learning, engaging in philanthropy, etc.? Do we continue living where we are or move for social reasons (be closer to friends and/or family), financial reasons, etc.
- Older Adulthood: As we continue to age and ourselves facing limits in our mental and physical capabilities, our priorities may shift to identifying ways to compensate or make peace with increasing limitations. For instance, if we no longer can drive safely, we may find alternative ways to travel or limit distance traveling.
- Elderhood: During our last stage of life, we find ourselves more physically and mentally challenged, and need to make peace with who’ve we been and our legacy.
One benefit of this framework is that it eliminates the issue of what to do with the phrase “retirement”; now it can be used solely for its original intent: to stop working (full- or part-time) to do other things. Some people will do so before their 50th birthday and others may never do so.
What stage are you in? What are the events or triggers that help you identify it? What are the major challenges you face? Share your comments with us!