A little tidbit of information was released over the holidays that had me floored—that the number of centenarians in the United States is more than 53,000. When I heard Scott Pelley report it, I was fully expecting him to stop at “the number of people in the U.S. in their second century is 53“—but then he added, “thousand.” Fifty-three thousand! All I heard was that I have a very good shot of reaching 100 or more. Turns out, life may not be so short.
People under 35 may think that’s pretty awesome—they get to live forever—or as close to forever as they can imagine, and they look good doing it. But for those of us over fifty, it gives pause. We’ve seen old age up close in our parents, and it ain’t pretty at all. Most of our parents are still in their 80s, and they’re wandering around with dementia, diabetes, hypertension, and generally a mess while living on fixed incomes. It is truly horrifying to imagine what 100—or more—could look like.
….But now that I’m going to live for several more decades—after all, I’m just middle-aged—things are looking very different. For one thing, I’m going to need a job. One I can do preferably, from home, and I can keep doing even if I can’t walk too well or see too well. I won’t be able to lift much.
And, I want to be happy. I worked for more than 30 years at various jobs I didn’t love just so I could have a little enjoyment later in life. I was never planning to retire early, but if I were, that dream is gone. We have to plan to finance a long life—without the energy and prospects we had in our 30s. For those of you who in your 20s or 30s now, you have a very long work life ahead. Either way, this life bears rethinking.
(Think: Aurora! I’ll explain later…)
So I gave you the bad news up front—you might live a lot longer than you expected. But you also have another life out there…because twilight (known in filmmaking as the “magic hour”) will be extended for a decade or two.
Are you doing what you always wanted to do? Because you still have time left to do it!
Remember how we always said that if we knew when we were 20 what we know now, we’d do things differently? Guess what—that opportunity is here. You know what you know, and you have time to use it.
Okay, so what’s next? A plan for more. Dan Fogelberg wrote, “where do you go when you get to the end of your dream?” The answer is you dream again. Maybe not bigger, just better. You have to outline a third act, or even Act IV.
It’s never been done before, planning to life past 100—which really means how you’ll spend the years you had planned on being retired (60, 75, 87, etc.). It won’t be enough to bounce grandchildren on each knee, or weed the garden. And it may hard to think about what it could look like to be an active 92-year-old, but it is time to think about it. Luckily there are some role models out there already, like:
Betty White, who turned 91 yesterday, and has become the icon of life in the fast seniors’ lane. She is currently starring in a TV series, Hot in Cleveland, and hosting a show called Betty White’s Off Their Rockers, in addition to a number of supporting roles on TV and in films.
Cloris Leachman is 87, and she has 5 films waiting to be released, in addition to working on a weekly primetime sitcom, Raising Hope.
Willie Nelson, who is 80, already started his 2013 tour.
Clint Eastwood, at 83, just starred in Trouble With The Curve in 2012, after directing 8 films throughout his 70s, including J. Edgar, Hereafter, Invictus, Grand Torino, Letters from Iwo Jima and Flags of Our Fathers.
So, sometimes you get a chance to enjoy being master of your craft for a while—although some of us may still have to figure out what “craft” that is. That’s what this post is about: figuring out who you want to be, now that you have a shot at being it.
So who do you want to be when you grow…old?
The answer becomes clear when you look at the roads behind you. What did you love about your life up ‘til now? What do people love about you? When did you feel most satisfied with yourself? As my sister (Movie Maven and health coach, Nancy Monson) says, “We no longer retire, we have to evolve.” Answers to these questions can guide you to your next evolution.
And I have one more thing to help you find your way. This month, I will be launching a new E-newsletter featuring bloggers who are creatively exploring their next lives.
It’s called Aurora: A Guide to Living in Color
I invite you to sign up to receive monthly issues of Aurora: A Guide to Living in Color at the end of each month, featuring the best of all our blogs, so you can creatively explore your next life. Here’s what you’ll read:
Arts Enclave – Where Art and Life Meet – monthly interviews from my blog with creatively inspiring people, starting with Kenny Loggins and his new band, Blue Sky Riders.
She Makes and Bakes– creative experiments in the kitchen with baker and writer, Emily Pahl.
Creative Wellness– healthy approaches to a better life with health coach and craft writer Nancy Monson, author of “Craft to Heal.”
Creative Success – practical and inspirational approaches to building your business or worklife, from the author of “The 12 Secrets of Highly Successful Women,” Gail McMeekin.
Travels in Abbey – the often hilarious and generally informative off-road adventures of Jelane Kennedy and Eileen McFerran, who roll around the country in their minivan, Abbey, exploring life between semesters of teaching.
And, just to keep you up to date on all that’s worth reading and seeing, we have the Aurora Book Review, and movie reviews from The Movie Maven, who many of you already follow.
The first issue will be available by email on January 30, 2013, and will be readable from any of your devices. Did I say that it’s free? We want you to share all these blogs with you and help them grow, so you will be able to visit each of our blogs from the articles we print each month.
And I will invite you to send in topics—there’s a lot of creative experience in this group, and we hope to explore the wonderful life ahead!
Please sign up to receive the first issue of our new E-newsletter on January 30th by emailing YES in the Subject Line to: email@example.com.
Aurora – A Guide to Living in Color
Because nothing about your life should be ordinary.