How Will We Fill The Bonus Years?
“I’m grateful for every age I’m blessed to become.”
~ Oprah Winfrey, from What I Know For Sure
As we’ve discussed previously, while dying is feared in Western culture, there is often more trepidation about the aging process itself. A group of Silicon Valley billionaires, all years from collecting Social Security, is working to change both perceptions by exploring the outer limits of life extension. The tech titans are putting their money where their minds are, supporting leading-edge research into expanding how long and how well we might live.
We’ve explored how we might be able to turn back the hands of time by turning on our telomerase gene, but the founders of such game-changing digital empires as Google, PayPal, eBay and Facebook are funding research that goes further, “hunting for the secrets of living organisms with insanely long lives; engineering microscopic nanobots that can fix your body from the inside out; figuring out how to reprogram the DNA you were born with; and exploring ways to digitize your brain based on the theory that your mind could live long after your body expires,” driven by a certitude that “rebuilding, regenerating, and reprogramming patients’ organs, limbs, cells, and DNA will enable people to live longer and better.”
There’s a lot we can do in our own low-tech lives, however, as centenarians demonstrate. Diets ranging from protein and calcium rich to vegan with fish lengthen lives at ten times the national average, according to a researcher who studied those 100 years old in “Blue Zones” around the world. It seems that to a great extent, when it comes to aging, you are what you eat.
How to Live Longer and Better
Beyond the ethical issues of extending life by tinkering with nature, the larger question remains: what will we do with all those extra years, assuming we’re healthy enough to enjoy them?
Just living longer isn’t enough, says encore career expert Marc Freedman, author of The Big Shift: Navigating the New Stage Beyond Midlife. “Aside from the mind-boggling prospect of saving for 50- or 75-year retirements, how do we make these new chapters both fulfilling for individuals and sustainable for society?
“Life extension without social innovation is a recipe for dystopian disaster — what one critic characterizes as ‘the coming death shortage,’ invoking images not only of endless (and unaffordable) retirements but of a society loaded down by a population explosion of the idle old.”
Reverse mortgage may be one viable answer to the financial requirements of an extended retirement. Life enrichment and retooling for the next life stage should be its cornerstone, says Freedman. Someone turning 65 today can expect to live an additional 19.3 years, and in a recent Centers for Disease Control study, nearly 70% said they want to continue working in order to stay active and involved. They also say it’s “very important” to them to leave the world a better place.
One of the best opportunities longer lives offer is the chance to follow your dreams, cited as the number one regret of the dying. Using a HECM to follow your heart, travel, retool to do work you love or simply spend more time with friends and family minus money worries may not banish our final bow forever, but it can make these extra years a bonus instead of a burden, and that’s what positive aging is all about.
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