We all know the old adage: “Getting older is better than the alternative.” It’s true most of the time, but it’s also true that growing “old” today is better than it has been ever before.
In the spirit of Thanksgiving, here are eight reasons to be thankful for growing older:
1. You’re not alone. If misery loves company, so, too, do seniors. Soon, there will a billion of you over 60, and you’ll make up nearly 20 percent of the world’s population. By the way, that will be over 2 billion by mid-century, with the added phenomenon of more people than those under 15. If there’s strength in numbers, the power is yours.
2. Aging has become a time of vitality. You are not aging like your parents. “Seniors” are now becoming entrepreneurs and agents for social change in larger numbers than ever before. Over the past decade in the U.S., the most common age for an entrepreneur is somewhere between 55 and 64.
3. You still have plenty to contribute. When you turn 55, your employer isn’t going to give you a gold watch and send you off into the sunset. Business needs you. And, contrary to conventional wisdom, “seniors” are being hired in greater numbers than ever before.
4. You are a target demographic. Companies are gearing goods and services to your demographic. The Boomer cohort has more buying power than any other, and there is concerted effort to sell you things that keep you young, hip, and in-the-know. This is true not only of the 77 million here in America, but of the 450 million globally.
5. Hollywood has gotten over its teen obsession. While Twilight and action-hero shoot-‘em-ups still dominate, there are many good flicks for the more wizened movie-goer. Similar trends exist in music, fashion and television.
6. You are on the global agenda. This might be less crucial to Saturday nights out, but global organizations are paying due attention to the over-60 crowd. From the World Health Organization to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, you are now the target of discussion and focus. As Uncle Sam might say, “We want you to stay healthy, active, and productive.” It’s great economics to have healthy and active 60, 70 and 80 year olds.
7. Maintaining good health is easier than ever before. And we’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg. The health care industry is teaming up with technology companies, entrepreneurs and venture capital funds to create breakthrough innovations in the delivery of healthcare. You are becoming empowered to manage your own health. The lengthy, ineffective and bureaucratic days of health care are numbered.
8. The world is becoming “age-friendly.” Cities through the WHO Age-friendly Cities’ global program are adapting to meet the needs of older adults. New forms of retail, education, transportation, care and housing are emerging to keep the aging involved and engaged. Businesses are creating age-friendly campuses and workplaces. Aging is no longer a one-way ticket to golf-carts and bingo parlors. Cities from New York to Mumbai are transforming to meet the demands of aging. And, as a consequence, even the culture is changing: When Davy Jones of The Monkees died earlier this year at age 66, it was widely characterized as sad because he was so young.
This Thanksgiving, as we gather around dinner tables, there will likely be three, four and even five generations dining together. It’s the miraculous outcome of centuries of advances in health, medicine and sanitation. And, as the 21st century progresses and more pass into the once-dreaded “senior” demographic, there are more reasons to be thankful for aging than ever before.
Michael W. Hodin, Ph.D., is Adjunct Senior Fellow at The Council of Foreign Relations and Executive Director of The Global Coalition on Aging.