Imagine the scenario: an 18- to-21-year-old young adult in your life wants to have a talk. Maybe it is a child, grandchild or nephew. Here's a bit of the conversation:
"Yeah, so I'm not sure I want to go to college or pursue a career job. I want to focus on ME for a while. You know; just kick back, relax, master that video game and binge on some Netflix. I am not that worried about my health -- I get out to the gym once in a while, and my diet is fine -- after all pizza and beer never killed anyone before! Volunteer you say? Yeah, I am going to get around to that I promise. For now, I just want to chill."
What would you say to that young adult sitting in front of you? Take a moment and formulate your answer. Perhaps it would be something like this:
"That is a terrible idea, you would be wasting your talents -- you can't afford to just sit around -- you are going to have to support yourself. If you let your health go now it is a lot harder to get on a routine, and volunteering and giving back is an important part of being a part of society, and finally; I would be really upset and disappointed if all that time and money is left to go to waste."
Is this sounding familiar?
Now, imagine a newly retired 65- to 70-year-old who goes to the doctor for a checkup. Perhaps the scenario goes something like this:
"Yeah, so I'm not sure I want to do now that I am retired. I want to focus on ME for a while. You know, just kick back, relax, and binge on some Netflix. I am not that worried about my health, I get out to the gym once in a while and my diet is fine -- after all the studies say that coffee and wine is good for you right? Volunteer you say? Yeah, I am going to get around to that I promise. For now, I just want to take some time off."
The ingenious Jim Firman, CEO of NCOA (National Council On Aging) outlined this scenario recently at the Certified Senior Advisor's conference. The joke was on us all. It was so easy to lecture the young adult for taking an aisle seat in the road of life. Yet the reality is, many baby boomers are making the exact same choice; checking out with potentially decades of healthy life ahead of them.
Are You a Seenager or an Aging Master?
In one generation, our lifespan has stretched almost 30 years, and the idea of retiring at age 65 is not only becoming outdated, but fiscally and physically dangerous. Countless studies have shown that our health takes a rapid decline when we are alone and inactive. The areas in the world with the greatest longevity (the Blue Zones) are those where adults are nudged into activity all day long, and maintain a sense of purpose throughout life.
It seems there are a couple ways to approach the "third age." On the more indulgent side is a fun term; "Seenager," which describes the retired years as one of a second adolescence:
"Being a Seenager is defined as having everything that you wanted as a teenager, only 50 years later. You don't have to go to school or work. You get an allowance. You have your own pad. You can sleep as late as you want and you don't have a curfew. You have a driver's license and your own car. You have ID that gets you into bars and the liquor store. You not afraid of getting pregnant. You don't have acne. You can get legal drugs. You can wear what you want, swear without getting a bad reputation and don't have to care about what you should be when you grow up."
On the other hand, there are those who see the third age of life as a new adventure in learning, contributing, engaging and growing. The NCOA created an "Aging Mastery Program" to develop new expectations, norms, and pathways for people aged 50 to 100, to make the most of their gift of longevity.
According to the NCOA, "the nation's 76 million baby boomers have been given an unprecedented gift of health and time; but to a great extent, older adults do not make the most of this phase of life."
Firman mentioned a new Judaic version of the Aging Mastery program coming out the Fall. "After all, Abraham was in his 80's when he fathered his sons and was called upon by God to become the father of the Hebrew nation, and Moses was 76 when he was told to lead his people to a new land."
So, which are you? A "seenager" or a pioneer in Aging Mastery? Let's start a dialogue in the comments below.