New Study Reveals Dramatic Shift in the Ways Americans Look at Their Later Years
Scientists and sociologists tell us that there is an entirely new life stage that has never before existed. A life stage after the age of 65 that’s filled with opportunity and possibility. They tell us that it’s no longer uncommon to live two, three, and even four decades beyond what is considered “normal” retirement age. That’s longer than the time many of us spend in our careers.
Hearing that more is possible from researchers is encouraging but hearing it from ordinary people who are experiencing it is far more impactful.
Age Wave, the nation’s foremost thought leader on aging and its many implications recently published a study called The New Age of Aging that reveals a dramatic shift in the way ordinary Americans define old age and envision the possibilities of the later years of life. The results of the study underscore the value of change and the importance of successfully transitioning into this new life stage.
Four Key Findings from The New Age of Aging:
- “Old” Isn’t What It Used to Be
If you think you’re nothing like your parents or grandparents were at your age, you’re probably right. The study found that while age 60 was considered “old” in their grandparents’ time, age 80 is now considered the median age for “old.” That’s a life-changing shift in perspective because our belief system about aging has a major impact upon how we age. Research proves that those with a positive view of aging live, on average, seven and a half years longer than those with a negative view.
- Retirement Isn’t What It Used to Be
The study reveals a major change in the way retirement is perceived. It’s no longer considered a time exclusively for rest and relaxation 24/7. Two-thirds of Americans age 50+ now view retirement as a new chapter in life, with the majority wanting to continue working in some fashion -- full-time, part-time, or cycling in and out of work.
The nature of post-retirement work is also changing. Increasingly, retirement is less about success and more about significance. The study finds that 83% of U.S. adults 65+ say it’s more important for them to feel useful than youthful in their retirement years.
- Happiness Soars with Age
Forget the stereotype of the unhappy, bitter, and ill-tempered curmudgeon. Today’s older adults are literally happier and more optimistic about their future than ever. Seventy-one percent of Americans 65+ say the best time of their lives is right now or in front of them. Of course, not everyone has the same life experience but, in general, as we age, we tend to become more aware of the smaller things in life bringing us greater pleasure. We realize that less is more and focus on that which matters most – family, friends, passion, and purpose.
The study adds to the rapidly growing body of research that reveals the importance that purpose and social connections play in our lives. Having a strong sense of purpose in our later years enhances our health and well-being and may even reduce the risk of Alzheimer's, heart disease, and stroke1 while social isolation has been found to be more deadly than smoking cigarettes2.
1Irving, J., Davis, S., Collier, A. Aging with purpose: systematic search and review of literature pertaining to older adults and purpose. The International Journal of Aging and Human Development. 2017.
2Holt-Lunstad, J., Smith, T.B., Layton, J.B., Social Relationships and Mortality Risk: A Meta-analytic Review. PLOS Medicine. 2010.
- Life Lessons are Our Most Important Legacy
As we age, we become more aware of leaving a legacy and we wonder if we have enough or have done enough to be remembered. The Age Wave study shows that 65% of adults 50+ think that values and life lessons are the most important thing to pass on to their heirs and loved ones. Only 22% said financial assets and/or real estate were the most important. Kindness, honesty, thoughtfulness, positivity, fearlessness, and loyalty. These are all powerful and impactful legacies that we can all aspire to.
This encouraging study concludes that, "Aging most definitely isn’t what it used to be. It is an emotional ascent and a time of peak happiness and freedom."
Don’t fear life’s transitions. They are not the beginning of the end. They are the beginning of what’s next and increasingly that’s the happiest and most rewarding time of our lives.
If you, a family member, or friend are ready for what’s next, the experts at Caring Transitions can help. Our team will create an individualized plan that meets your specific needs, to help you make a smooth, stress-free transition into your next living situation. There are more than 300 locations nationwide, specializing in senior relocation, estate sales, downsizing and so much more. Welcome to The New Age of Aging.