How to plan for longevity, not retirement
(No. 78) Living well, instead of just paying the bills, by Stephen P. Williams
I slept poorly last night in a hotel room with air ducts that pumped febreze over my weary body. I awoke at 5 am from a nightmare of being buried alive, and I have had a headache all morning. When I asked my sister-in-law for Ibuprofen, she offered instead an electrolyte powder that, when mixed with water, tasted like concentrated Gatorade. I had my doubts about this elixir, but now my headache is fading. Sometimes, you have to trust in the unexpected, and trust other people’s wisdom. Thank you, Lauren.
Uh oh. We have a new phrase to worry about: “Longevity planning,” which is replacing “retirement savings.” And while longevity planning sounds soft, helpful, nourishing and all that, somehow retirement planning, with its concrete emphasis on stacking enough cash to live as long as you think you’re gonna live, seems easier, if harsher. That said, I think I’ve done better for longevity planning -- exercise, diet, meditation and all the other things that might make my next 40 years (ha ha) more enjoyable -- than I have planning how to cover my expenses. (For a thorough look at the “longevity economy” check out this book by MIT Age Lab director, Joseph F. Coughlin.) I guess it all depends on how close to the human mortality plateau (now about 110 years), I’ll get. While some overeager billionaires and scientists think they’re going to break through the age barrier, I feel more aligned with this quote from a recent Washington Post article: “Scientists know just one way for humans to live 170 years like a giant tortoise: become a giant tortoise.”
An invention I’d invest in
Here’s this week’s nomination for the most useful anti-aging product that hasn’t yet been invented:
Regret Scale: This device weighs the remorse you feel for past behaviors, including the slights you’ve directed towards family members, amount of donuts and candy corn consumed, and real estate and crypto investments you did not make. As you come to terms with your regrets, the weight goes down, and you thrive.
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Oldster digital consumerism explodes
Whatever floats your boat.
A trend forecaster called Euromonitor has named the top ten consumer trends for 2022, and guess what? We olds are in it, in the form of “digital seniors” and “the metaverse movement,” both of which are relevant to aging. Apparently, the pandemic has forced a lot of older people to switch from being digital neophytes to becoming experts at video calls, online grocery shopping and all the rest. About 45% of people over 60 now use online banking at least once a week, and 21% play video games at least once a week. Over 80% of older people own a smart phone. And now companies like Rendever are loading up nursing homes with virtual reality devices so seniors can “go wherever they want” in the metaverse, where everything is digital and everything is fake, and you decide which pixelated room or outdoor space to enter. I remember in the old days I would lie on the grass and do this in my imagination.
Yet, it could be that I am just being cranky. Perhaps the metaverse actually does offer beauty and joy for aging people. The man in the video, below, certainly is moved by a fairly primitive version of the virtual reality that is now coming online. But does a virtual trip to Thailand offer relief from a person’s suffering, loneliness or memory issues? Or is it just a reminder of what has been lost. See for yourself.
Monks who train dogs
Dogs are great companions at any stage of life, but especially as we age. Except when they get underfoot, run off, or pull you down on a patch of black ice during the morning walk. Years ago I inherited two willful and very smart Coonhounds who I found impossible to train. After one of them, a blue-tick named Elvis, smeared blueberry pie filling all over my car (he ate the crust), I contacted some Eastern Orthodox monks in upstate New York to help me out. The Monks at New Skete raise and train special German Shepherds, but they also train regular dogs. And they have some wonderful books on how to keep yourself and your dog happy and sane. Seek them out.
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