THE BLOG

A New Middle Age

11/22/2012 07:22 am ET | Updated Jan 22, 2013

We all know the old adage: "Getting older is better than the alternative." And 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% of the world's population. By the way, over 2 billion by mid century, with the added phenomenon of more of you than under 15. If there's strength in numbers, then 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 55-64.
  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. Nor is it surprising that our friends in Europe have dedicated 2012, to their "Year of Active Ageing...", which is both a comment on reality, and a profound recognition that fiscal sustainability is only possible when 20th century definitions of "old" are discarded and no longer automatically associated with social and state dependence.
  4. You are a target demographic. Companies are gearing goods and services to your fancy. The Boomer demographic 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. Not only the 77 million here in America, but the 450 million globally.

  5. Hollywood has gotten over its teen obsession. While Twilight and action-hero shoot-'em-ups still dominate, there is no shortage of good flicks for the more wizened movie-goer. Similar trends have been seen also 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 have become 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. Keeping good health is easier than ever before. And we've only seen the tip of the iceberg. The healthcare 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 healthcare are numbered.
  8. The world is becoming "age-friendly." Cities through the World Helath Organization's Global Network of Age-friendly Cities and Communities 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 Monkeys died earlier this year at 66, it was widely characterized as sad because he was so young. And, so, perhaps it is the hope, expectation and reality of 21st century demographics that we will come to define a new "middle age" -- with people staying healthy and active into their 60s and 70s .

This Thanksgiving, as we gather around our dinner tables, there will likely be three, four or even five generations dining together. It's thanks to the miraculous outcome 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. Or as was proclaimed in the World Economic Forum's seminal and groundbreaking book "Global Population Ageing: Peril or Promise?," let's ensure we take the steps to ensure the "Promise" side of population aging.