Greater longevity and vitality will change core patterns of society. When people lived just thirty or forty years, life followed a well-defined linear path. We grew up, went to school, worked hard while marrying and rearing a family, and then we died. Everything had its place, and life was too short for second chances. Increased longevity transforms this model. All around us, the linear path is being replaced by something more flexible. As Maddy Dychtwald explained in her book Cycles, now we can cycle in and out of careers -- interspersing periods of rest and retraining. We may end up working longer, but rather than saving all of our leisure for the end of our lives, regular breaks throughout adulthood will become commonplace. Formal sabbaticals and informal work leaves will be part of every major company's standard package of benefits.
The landmark New Retirement Survey that Ken directed in 2004 with Merrill Lynch was based on interviews with more than three thousand boomers (www.totalmerrill.com/retirement). The study found that only 17 percent of them said they intended to stop working for pay forever in their next stage of life. A whopping 42 percent reported that they hoped to cycle in and out of work and leisure for extended periods throughout life; 16 percent expected to continue working part-time; 13 percent were planning on starting their own business; and 6 percent fully intended to keep working full-time right through their retirement years. Incredibly, of the 76 percent who intended to continue working in some fashion, more than half were hoping to do so in a completely new career or line of work!
Further, when asked why so many wanted to stay involved with work, the overwhelming response was not money. Instead, two of three said the main reason was to stay mentally active. Members of our highly educated and productive generation simply don't want to live a life of intellectual stagnation and mental irrelevance.
3. We'll Have a Big -- and Growing -- Pool of Role Models
How about John Glenn going back into space, and what about Sumner Redstone, who in his eighties is chairman of Viacom, and Rupert Murdoch, who at seventy-four is chairman of News Corporation? They are running two of the world's largest media empires as though they expect to be around to see their visions realized decades hence.Who knows? Maybe they will be.
Warren Buffett remains the world's greatest investor midway through his seventies. People magazine named Sean Connery the sexiest man alive in 1989 when he was fifty-nine. Sophia Loren is pretty terrific in her seventh decade of life, too. Joe Paterno, at seventy-seven, signed a four-year contract extension to coach the vaunted Penn State football team.