Living Longer: The Pros and Cons of Aging

How status and sex changes for 60-plus seniors.

ByABC News
March 31, 2008, 3:16 PM

March 31, 2008 — -- It won't surprise you to learn that some of the country's top young comedians draw humor from the topic of aging and most often, the audience responds with big laughs. While racist jokes are taboo in this country, ageism is still fair game.

We asked Stephen Dubner, co-author of the book "Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything," to examine for us some of the implications of living longer. He concludes that aging may actually become a new barometer of status.

"There will be too many older people with too much market power, too much political influence, with too much momentum to create any other kind of situation," says Dubner.

As baby boomers are likely to live longer, the next generation will need to rethink its inheritance.

"There's this thing called the 'great wealth transfer' we've been hearing about, how trillions of dollars will come from the older generation to the next. In the old days you could depend on Grandma and Grandpa's money to send your kids to college. Maybe not anymore. Maybe they'll be using that up," says Dubner.

Those aren't the only social changes of living longer, according to Dubner. He says that cities may become safer if more elders migrate from the suburbs back to the city.

Love and Sex

Will there also come a time when 60 becomes the new sexy?

And if we live to be well over 100, are we really going to have just one partner for all that time? Dubner says you shouldn't expect to marry in your 20s "until death do us part."

"Do we kind of ritualize a kind of serial marriage culture in this country, where you have your marriage in your 20s and 30s, where you have the children, then your marriage in your 40s and 50s where you have a partner with whom you do midlife stuff, and then your marriage later on?" says Dubner.

"I think there's going to be a lot of changes in what economists would call the marriage market or the love market."

Seniors who suddenly find themselves single may venture into the uncharted waters of this new "love market" while attending gatherings set up just for their age groups.