According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are 76.4 million Baby Boomers, those born between 1946 and 1964. That’s roughly a quarter of the U.S. population.
By 2030, over 20 percent of the U. S. population is projected to be over the age of 65 (compared to 13 percent in 2010), and by 2050, there will be more people over the age 65 than those under the age of 18. Whatever the baby boomers decide to do, how we age will have a huge impact on our society.
Currently, the average life expectancy for men in the United States is about 76 and for women about 81. A woman entering her 60s now can expect to live to be 85 (according to the U.S. Social Security Administration). Only about a third of the adult population have savings for retirement, and the cost of living into our old age is sobering. The cost of living in an assisted care facility, for example, starts at about $100,000 per year at minimum and goes up multifold, especially as one’s need for special care are included. On average, we are now living so long that the U.S. Census Bureau states, “The number of people in the oldest-old age group, which refers to those aged 85 and over, is projected to grow from 5.9 million in 2012 to 8.9 million in 2030.” Imagine that – nearly 9 million people in the United States over age 85 by 2030. By mid-2040, the “oldest-old” age group is expected to be 4 percent of the US population. No wonder that the insurance companies are now coming out with “extended life” annuities, designed to provide income for those who may live to see 100.
These thoughts are sometimes daunting because, whether or not we individually become part of the “oldest old” or how we individually age, the demographics are real. We are, as a cohort, those who will grow old, and as a cohort, we will have huge impact on our society and on our families. What we do for ourselves, we do for ourselves, our families, and our society.
While we may have little power to impact the complex problems of an aging society, I believe at minimum we can start with ourselves. As we try to live consciously and mindfully now, truthful to our own purposes and values, we have the opportunity to create our own best selves and our own better futures. We can start on the small things, such as self-care and a commitment to become more self-aware. We have impact over the relationships we create and nurture over time. We have some control over our own health and well-being.
Change does not need to be on big scale. It can be reflected in seemingly small changes. For example, one of the things I’ve noticed expressed by those at midlife (and often times said casually and incidentally) is an intent to start cleaning, organizing, and purging one’s household or belonging. I liken it to the “nesting” behavior often expressed by mothers-to-be, how they instinctively prepare the house for a new child to arrive. It seems to make sense; the cleaning, organizing, and purging may be a form of preparation in and for the second half of life. The process of clearing out is a process of letting go, and it helps to create new space in one’s life and invites new energy and possibilities into one’s life. It’s also a way of taking care of one’s own life, such that it leaves less for others to address and resolve if we should become unable.
One person, who claimed that her family was most important in her life, refused to put her house and belongings in order as she aged, even though she was capable. “Why?” I asked. Her rationale was, “After I die, it’s their problem.” This kind of misalignment of one’s stated values and actions is puzzling, but perhaps understandable given the busyness and demands of our lives. We all have our idiosyncrasies.
Beyond the glitter of the holidays, the New Year and the opportunity to start afresh await. Whether your thoughts are to start exercising, to eat more healthfully, to ignite a new interest, or to pursue an old passion... or however way you wish to grow or reinvent yourself, simply set your intention and start. Do it for yourself and for those you love.
The importance of “intention” in life cannot be understated. Where purpose gives meaning and sets goals, your intention automatically guides action. When you cannot articulate your intention given a certain situation or circumstance, you may, by chance, arrive at some outcome, or you may arrive at another, harboring (consciously or subconsciously) a need or desire for an entirely different outcome. Not stating an intention may be a way out, an escape for a different reality.
Intention, expressed or not, will tell you which direction life will take you.
Naturally, good intentions sometimes fail. But failing from a place of well-intended action allows for recovery, if for no other reason than that we are more conscious, mindful, and purposeful in our being.
Sometimes, life surprises us with the unknown. It is only to be expected with all the unknown and the unforeseeable currents of our lives and mysteries of the universe. Poet Juan Ramon Jimenez captures one such experience in his poem Oceans.
I have a feeling that my boat
has struck, down there in the depths,
against a great thing.
--Nothing happens? Or has everything happened,
and are we standing now, quietly, in the new life?
That’s how new life sometimes reveals itself, for good or for bad. In any case, once again, right way, we have an opportunity to set our intention. Pay attention to what is important and beautiful in life. “Where we invest our attention makes all the difference in the character of later life.” (Wendy Lustbader, from Life Gets Better)
Thoughts for creating success in the second half of life.