Summer's here! For the kids, it's the best time of the year. No school, no homework, and recess lasts all day long. But summer is also a great time for adults and those of us anachronistically called "senior citizens." But there's no reason to let that 20th century terminology get us down. Here are six reasons to celebrate aging this summer:
- Vacations are good for you health. You know that vacation you've been planning for (or dreaming about) since the leaves fell from the trees back in October? 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.
- Vacations are also good for your family and your romantic life. Recent research from U.S. Travel found that vacations can improve familial relationships - especially across generational lines. Over half of all kids surveyed claimed that vacations bring their families closer together, and 80% claim that vacations enable them to spend "quality time" with their grandparents. Even better, vacations are also a way to rekindle romance. New survey research shows that three in every four travelers finds travel adds romance to their relationship. As we are living longer -- that 30 years added to life since the fifties - Summer's a great time to connect and fill the time for those in their 60s, 70s, 80s and beyond with valued relationships that's good for our , especially mental health, and great for GDP growth.
- Vacation destinations are vibrant -- and "age-friendly." We're not aging like our parents. The all-inclusive golf and bingo resorts of the 1990s are giving way to vacations that bring together vibrancy and age-friendliness. Urbanist Richard Florida argues that the next wave of "age-friendly" travel will abandon buffets for cafes and live music. And it's more common than ever for the young and "old" to brush shoulders at uber-trendy scenes like South Beach. Intergenerational carousing seems to be on the up-and-up. Memo to companies across America and globally -- there's a new exploding market that your products and services can find growth and value. You just need to think about the 1 billion of us over 55 as a market segment. Those of you who employ us, even part time to help think about and create these new markets will win the 21st century competitiveness race. It's just there for the taking! And if you are really into longer-term planning, consider that by mid-century there will be 2 billion over 60, more than under 15 - a market opportunity if there ever was one!
- Sun damage is fully avoidable. New evidence shows that a daily dose of sunscreen can not only help prevent cancer -- which we've long known -- but also keep your skin from developing the tell-tale signs of aging. A recent Australian study found that daily sunscreen use, even on the world's sunniest continent, kept adult women from developing "indications of photoaging," which includes lines, wrinkles, coarseness, and the like. Healthy skin is, more and more a target for the children as for example is "The Skin You're In" program of the American Skin Association. Great! But, equally, those of us over 50 will have up to forty more years and its not at all too late to start on healthy skin practices, which will not only enable a healthier and more active aging, but save our health systems loads of money as we deploy prevention of both melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancer.
- You've got plenty left in the tank. While it's sad news that the world's oldest living person has recently passed, it's also a testament to the progress that we're making that someone has now lived to 116. Jiroemon Kimura, born in 1897, worked as a postal carrier until standard retirement age, then transitioned into an "encore career" and farmed until he was 90. So while the summers may be piling up along with the years, we are also the happy beneficiaries of the longest life expectancy in the history of humankind. Summer is a great time to offer services to the children off from school and create the pathways to new activities or even employment. Employers are used to summer interns; how about summer mentorships where those who might have retired in an earlier era can partner or mentor with the teens and early twenties? And these become the pilots for broader and deeper intergenerational collaboration. Another of the win-wins. The age-old notion that productivity declines among older workers is being more fully disproven by the day. The newest evidence comes from an in-depth study by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, which found that working men over 60 are just as productive as those "in their prime" aged between 35 and 54. Some younger workers may complain of a "gray ceiling," but employers are taking note of how older workers can drive business and perhaps use the Summer as a way to test what could become the norm for 21st century life and work.
- We can still dunk. Or at least this guy can! Summer in our 21st century at any age is not just Golf or Shuffle Board.
So, as the kids prance around on the beach and pray for an endless summer, take solace in aging. It's not what it used to be. Indeed, there's never been a better time to age.