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Managing Your Life and Career at 120 Years Old: How Are You Going to Do That?

Posted on 06/18/2018 in Executive Coaching, Featured Articles by Jack Speer

How will you manage your life and career at the age of 120? Silly question? Not worth thinking about? Waste of time? Maybe so, maybe no.

Think of it this way. Over half of people born in the 21st Century—by credible demographers—are generally expected to live to the age of 90. That’s with the limitations of today’s medical technology.

We absolutely know that life to the age of 120 is biologically possible in the modern era.

Active Life and Careers are Possible Past 100

Consider this. French born Jeanne Louise Calment (B 1875 – D 1997) lived122 years and 164 days. She led a very active life, traveling, active in sports, and walked without a cane until 117.

It would seem from a scientific perspective that a person who lived to 120 will go from being a very rare event to become nearer to the norm in the next few generations.

If you definitely knew you’d live to 120 years old, how would it impact the way you plan your career and life now? What would your lifestyle be like? How would you fill your time if you knew you had a lot more of it? How would you educate yourself? What work would you do? Would it impact the date you want to retire?

What Will the Age of Longevity be Like for You?

You may not extend your life to 122, but lifespans increase significantly every generation, and likely you will live significantly longer than the present generation. So ‘what are the implications of greater longevity in the workplace and in the lives of people?

  1. People will live longer, although employment will continue to be for shorter periods, even for fulltime employees. Organizations through technology will continue to have fewer fulltime employees. 

    Unemployment will take on a new definition – active and interim careers. For people of every age it will be common to have periods of working and the other periods of their lives. People will find both working and not working to be natural periods of their lives. Employment will be episodic. The periods of not working with be natural and valued. Many will learn to enjoy these periods for family, volunteer work, and travel.

  2. In the era of greater longevity, finding, recruiting and retaining motivated and skilled employees will even more challenging. Employment will compete with non-employment. People will be able to gain status and significance while not working, in volunteer work and travel. Work will be seen as less of what gives meaning and significance to life. People will feel they have time to prepare for what will be a new definition of old age—mid-80s to mid-90s. They will be more apt to have periods when they value free time more than work.
  3. The age for active employment will continue to rise radically. The 60s will literally become midpoint in people’s lives. Employment into 60’s. 70’s and even 80’s will become common in the workplace, both as bosses and direct reports. In the age of “gig employment,” with significant inactive periods, people will need to work past what’s considered retirement age now. A consumer society will demand that people continue to make money and consume goods.
  4. Healthcare will become even more major. The cost living—defined as the cost of staying alive—will continue to rise. Medical technology to maintain a population of centenarians—people 100 and above—will be the biggest financial and logistical problem ever faced by modern societies.
  5. “Too late” will be an even poorer excuse in the 21st Century. You may not hit 120, but you’ll be able to do begin things at 40 or 50 that used to be done by people in their 20s. If you deeply regret not getting that degree you wanted, you most likely have plenty of time to do it now.
  6. As 40 becomes the new 21, people will have the option to get hipper and smarter—if they manage their lives well. Exercise and diet will give people a distinct competitive advantage. Those who remain current in rapidly changing job skills, what’s happening in pop culture, music, and fashion will remain current and relevant. Technology will enable people to keep names, faces, and information instantly available. Fading memories and declining health will be pushed to a much greater age.

There are several visions of the age of greater longevity. Some people see the future of longevity as uploading your brain to a computer—not an appealing idea. The potential of a well-managed life will be key. How will you manage your life and career in the age of longevity?

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