To get the most out of longer lives, a new age category is needed.
WHAT do you call someone who is over 65 but not yet elderly? This stage of life, between work and decrepitude, lacks a name. “Geriactives” errs too much on the side of senescence. “Sunsetters” and “nightcappers” risk being patronising. Perhaps “Nyppies” (Not Yet Past It) or “Owls” (Older, Working Less, Still earning) ring truer.
Branding an age category might sound like a frivolous exercise. But life stages are primarily social constructs, and history shows that their emergence can trigger deep changes in attitudes. Such change is needed if the questions that swirl around rising longevity are to get a fitting answer.
End of Generation zzz
Before 1800 no country in the world had an average life expectancy at birth beyond 40. Today there is not a country that does not. Since 1900, more years have been added to human life than in the rest of history combined, initially by reducing child mortality and lately by stretching lifespans. Longevity is one of humanity’s great accomplishments.
Yet it is seen as one of society’s great headaches. The problem lies in the increasing dependency of the old on the young. By 2100, the ratio of 65-plussers to “working-age” people will triple. As the world greys, growth, tax revenues and workforces will decline while spending on pensions and health care will increase. So, at least, goes the orthodoxy.
Doom-mongers tend to miss a bigger point, however. Those extra years of life are predominantly healthy ones. Five of the additional six years that a British boy born in 2015 can expect to live, compared with one born in 1990, will be healthy, according to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, at the University of Washington. Too many governments and firms fail to recognise this fact, instead lumping all the extra years in the damning category of 65 and over. This binary way of thinking, seeing retirement as a cliff edge over which workers and consumers suddenly tumble, bears little relation to the real world. It also encourages unimaginative policy, whereby the retirement age is occasionally moved as lifespans lengthen.
For the full article please visit The Economist.