Bruce Frankel is a seasoned journalist with USA Today and People magazine, New York Times best-selling author, and poet. His new book What Should I do with the Rest of My Life?features twelve intimate, inspiring stories of second-half success (post age 60), celebrating people who refused to let illness, stereotypes, and assumptions about aging stop them from realizing their dreams of becoming, among other things, an artist, athlete, activist, inventor, entrepreneur, dancer, teacher, filmmaker, psychologist, writer, and the nation’s oldest park ranger. They all created their paths by walking on it.
Collision and Opportunity – Life in America after the Fiscal Cliff: Too often we look at the world through the lens of what divides us, when from a different perspective we should be united. For example, competition for jobs between younger and older workers will shift due to a shift in demographics – “for” will replace “between.” By 2018 there is a significant projected shortfall of capable people to fill opportunities, a result of the return to healthy US economic growth, yet no change in the current work force participation or immigration rate. In fact, succession planning challenges will accelerate as the baby boom generation turns 65 and opts for part time or different full time meaningful opportunities, moving to entrepreneurial ventures, non-traditional work, and non-profits.
Volunteering – Giving Back to Move Forward: To those who do not know what to do or are frustrated as they seek work with no callbacks for job interviews, the best advice is simple: Get up, get out, and do something for someone else. Doing good makes us feel good, plus reduces stress, boosts confidence, engages us in new ways (brain cell growth for self-esteem!), helps acquire new skills, and connects us with new networks = new possibilities. To those who take up the call, a blank page will open to write a new life story.
The Conversation Project: A national and societal movement is underway to help guide older people and those important to them into an open conversation on end-of-life planning and personal wishes. It is time to focus on what matters to those older than us, not what is the matter with them. This is not a one-time conversation but rather like planning a trip carefully considering options and weighing choices with those who travel with us. This is as much about affirming our lives, as it is our legacy. www.theconversationproject.org
Admiration and Rest for the Brain: When we hear stories about amazing people, some of the most significant parts of the brain become activated and change. We channel from stories, being wired to prefer to hear stories that bring forth admiration and compassion as models for the future. Thus while our brains benefit from activity, rest (which is not inactivity but a time for stillness and reflection) is as critical. What is most important for brain development as tied to personal development is how what we do changes the world around us as we are doing it.
Sustaining Creativity for Longevity and Competitive Advantage: We all take for granted that creativity is critical for business and personal evolution, success and happiness; but, few of us learn much about how it works and why. In truth, we may be suppressing creativity due to an obsession with bottom-line efficiency and top-down control. Productive daydreaming or disciplined mind wandering requires a delicate, mental balancing act where frustrating problems actually prompt us to see from a new perspective. The difficulty of the task accelerates the insight process, and problems are possibilities waiting to be discovered.
The Education Revolution for Encore Careers: Just as baby boomers affected higher education 40 years ago, here they come again wanting and needing “encore college” experiences – innovative pathways to acquire new skills or translate prior experiences and know how – to fuel their encore careers. In addition to the expansion of on-line courses from a variety of providers, community colleges face a daunting challenge (opportunity) of servicing a threefold growth in prospective students. Approximately 80% of the 78 million baby boomer reaching retirement age say they want to continue working fulltime/part time, over 50% wanting social impact work – a purpose, a passion and a paycheck.
The Memory of Experience: Memories are all we really get to keep of our experiences, so to insure our development and growth it is all the more important for us to live life open to things outside of our comfort zone. Enjoy experimenting and the surprise of the unknown! People can be frozen by their memories, tormented, grieving or staying attached to what they may have lost. As a result, they do not pursue novel experiences because they have a limiting belief that they will not acquire memories they want, or that pursuing something may mean relinquishing other memories.
The Language of Aging: When it comes to aging, baby boomers need a new consciousness movement. Research bears out that those with a positive view of aging live an astounding 7.5 years longer than others. Adopting negative anti-aging messages pervasive in our society is destructive to our psyches and undermines our well-being, triggering dangerous ramifications for us economically, politically and physiologically. The encore stage of life can be a time for people to live their lives with a social purpose, or greater social purpose, and develop entirely new sets of interests and abilities.
Forging Social Connections for Longer Life: In isolation, we social animals deteriorate. With over 20% of Americans thinking of themselves as lonely, studies are revealing how critical becoming involved and strengthening our relationships helps us not just professionally, but also physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. In anticipation of our aging, reassessing our daily routines to explore new experiences and lifestyle options calls for deliberate planning, best done with people motivated as we are to make the most of the second part of life.
The Next Big Technology-Driven Revolution – Tele Healthcare: In the era of Global Aging, we cannot train enough doctors and nurses to catch up with the demographic realities of aging. In 1950 there were an estimated 3,000 centurions around the world; by 2050, there will be more than six million people over 100. Biology and engineering are joining forces today to innovate ways to keep people out of the hospital, nursing homes, and doctors’ offices. Health information sites for remote elder care, home monitoring devices, and wireless diabetes monitors are three examples of such opportunities for change.
Caregiving for Caregivers – A Leadership Imperative: One in six American workers – 13% of fulltime workers in every major socioeconomic and demographic group – assist in the care of an older family member. Men comprise 46% of these caregivers. Presenteeism (as opposed to absenteeism) is a new problem impacting the success of organizations, employees going to work but spending hours each day dealing with caregiving issues remotely, which compounds their stress to perform and contribute. The best organizations are beginning to provide a series of benefits to help, beginning with opening up the opportunity for employees to ask for help.
Copyright The Larsen Group: Architects of Change 2008