It's the most wonderful time of the year, apparently. Unless you're a Washington Redskins fan, a healthcare.org advocate, or an employee in the PR department of the NSA. But as the snow falls and the yule-tides rise, it's worth looking back over 2013 to note -- to celebrate -- what a great year it's been to get a year older.
- You're in good company. Whether you call home Tokyo, Berlin, Sao Paolo, or Kansas City, you and those around you are growing old at an unprecedented rate. Japan has an incredible 30 percent of its population over 60, and this will climb to 40 percent in the next two decades. Europe is only inches behind, and the less-industrialized nations of the world at catching up quickly. Quite soon, what was once "old" will be middle-aged, and a slew of new possibilities and opportunities are arising.
- You're healthy. Thanks to an ever-growing list of innovative breakthroughs in medicines, procedures, devices, and better sanitation and healthier lifestyles everywhere, global life-expectancy is shooting through the roof -- and people are enjoying good health later into life than ever before. Poor health during one's aging years does indeed remain one of the world's greatest obstacles to turning population aging into a driver of economic growth and prosperity, but we are most certainly moving in the right direction. New breakthroughs in immunization, skin care, vision, and more are re-writing the possibilities of aging and opening doors that have been closed to "seniors" for time immemorial.
- You can and should travel. New research suggests that it might be one of the best things you can do for your health. One academic study of 13,000 middle-aged men, for example, found that skipping vacations led to increased risk of heart disease. Another study of women found that "Women who took a vacation every six years or less were almost eight times more likely to develop coronary heart disease." We know the reverse is also true; those who remain active, which includes travel, stay healthier, longer. That's one goal worth saving for.
- You are on the global agenda. The G8 met this December in London to discuss how to spearhead a global initiative to beat Alzheimer's by 2025, the exploding health challenge of the 21st century because of its near perfect correlation to aging. The OECD has been working with Oxford University, and the WHO, the UN, APEC, the EU and other multi-national organizations are recognizing that national success is intimately interwoven with success of aging populations. New initiatives, programs, and agendas are being formed, and the aging are at the center of it all.
- You are sexy. From New York's catwalks to Hollywood's back-lots, older adults are stealing the show. Harper's Bazaar's legendary "Fabulous at Every Age" segment now features a page dedicated to women in their 60s and 70s, and more and more Hollywood's leading men would technically qualify for Social Security. The success of Red 2 - starring Bruce Willis, John Malkovich, and Anthony Hopkins -- shows that audiences are hungry for new ideas about aging. In this better-than-expected sequel, "retired" CIA operatives show that with age comes experience, wisdom, and an unrelenting capability to thrive despite lower-back pain.
- We're just getting started. As the Rolling Stones showed on their 50th anniversary tour, time is indeed on your side. And the G8's leadership reveals just how invested global authorities are in beating the problems of aging before they beat us. Companies of all industries are catching on, too, realizing that "age friendliness" isn't just the right thing to do -- but it's also essential to secure business success in the coming years.
As the kids get ready to go back to school in 2014, we should all recognize what a good year it's been. The progress we are making in capturing the opportunity of aging will create a better tomorrow for people of all ages. A healthier, more active and productive aging population will drive fiscal sustainability and economic growth for decades and decades to come. Indeed, a new model of aging may just be the greatest gift we could give our kids this holiday season.