We have all heard that “30 is the new 20”, but 80 is the new 50? How can this be possible? In general, our life span is longer now than it was generations ago (although the exact age fluctuates over the past few years). While the World Health Organization states that the average global lifespan is 72, this is dependent upon multiple factors, including which generation you are a part of as well as geographic location. However, there are systemic and cultural changes in which you can live much longer and more vibrantly than ever before.
The average age of retirement in the United States is 67 years of age, but around the world retirement age is trending upwards. People are simply working longer than before; some out of financial necessity and some out of a desire to continue working. This is not unusual as there are now upwards of 30-40 more years to live after retirement, rather than 10-20 years previously according to the Transamerica Institute. Yes, these extra years of work and labor can take a physical toll on our bodies. However, depending upon the work we are doing, the intensity, and duration, this can help our mental and cognitive stimulation, keeping us present and engaged in our lives longer.
In most countries around the globe, people are currently having children later in life. This pushes back many milestones that previous generations experienced much earlier in life. Being a grandparent, for example, may not occur until your 60s, when previously it may have been in your late 40s-50s. Watching these grandchildren meet their own milestones can be a newfound joy for someone in their 80s. There is also the possibility of repeated efforts in love and marriage. It is becoming more culturally common to remarry after divorce or widowhood. Many people are finding that they do not want to spend their post-retirement years alone, especially since that phase of life is longer now. Whether the purpose for coupling up is financial, romantic, or companionship related, relationships are not just for the young.
There have also been various cultural shifts towards making more healthful choices around movement and eating patterns. When someone has consistent access to healthcare, a variety of foods, and ability to move this can increase the likelihood of higher life satisfaction. Overall, a lot of experiences that people were having in middle adulthood, are now being pushed back and being experienced in your 80s. Late adulthood has always been about searching for general life satisfaction versus turning towards regret. However, with some changes in culture, technology, and health care, your 80s can absolutely be about solidifying great life satisfaction.