Most of the world’s population is aging and also living longer now than ever before. People can expect to live into their 80’s and beyond as an average lifespan. That means the number of people that reach the magical three-digit number — 100 — will also start to increase rapidly.
What is interesting, however, is that many people don’t necessarily want to live that long. While people do want to live good, long lives, concerns over becoming bored in life, ageism, and poverty have left many seniors quite comfortable with the idea of not hanging on.
So what is the magic number? 92, research shows. Assuming that health issues are not a problem, and the mind remains sharp, the average age that many seniors consider to be a “good innings” is 92.
When 60 was the prime retirement age, people would retire on the assumption that they only had a few years remaining, and retirement was a twilight to enjoy after a lifetime of honest work.
With people living to 80, 90, and beyond, the retirement years start to look more like an extended “book-end” to the working life – 20 or so years of childhood and study, 40 or so years of work, and then 20 (or more) years of the seniors’ life.
For many, the idea of 20 years without much to do is intimidating.
In addition to 62 percent of seniors agreeing that, economically, the nation needs people to stay in the workforce longer, many also want to continue working simply to prevent boredom. Many people are working less, perhaps, and slowly transitioning into a lifestyle of hobbies, exercise, travel, and family, but nonetheless, there is a significant component of work involved.
A full 40 percent of seniors want to continue working for as long as possible, precisely because it provides a sense of purpose and fulfillment in life.
The great fears of aging
For many seniors, the idea of living to 100 is one that causes anxiety. People are concerned in a number of areas that hanging around would cause more anguish than was worth it.
For example, almost 40 percent of people are concerned that living on to 100 years old will bring with it poor physical health and pain in those final few years. Around half, that number is more concerned that their mental health will fade.
Surprisingly, those are not the only causes of anxiety with aging, either. One in ten people are worried about outliving loved ones and friends, some are concerned with losing control over their lives, and others are worried about ending up in a state of poverty for going for too many years without an income. There are even those who are worried about social isolation.
The three-quarter life crisis
Indeed, the sources of anxiety over entering old age are broad enough that we’re starting to see a new trend emerge, whereby newly retired seniors (or those entering retirement age) are experiencing what is called a “three-quarter life crisis” — a major life re-assessment. It may even be replacing the infamous mid-life crisis that many people have traditionally gone through.
A full 32 percent of people report having experienced a three-quarter life crisis, and a further 46 percent say they’ve witnessed other seniors that they know go through it. Over half believe that the mid-life crisis is being replaced by the three-quarter life crisis, but it’s also worth noting that 67 percent of seniors believe that it’s a healthy process to work through.
Indeed, most seniors are quite relaxed and comfortable with life’s natural course. Most seniors would rather not fixate on life spans and how much longer they have on the world, and 79 percent say that they are “relaxed” about accepting when their time comes.
Pulled together, all of this data suggests that we’ve hit a point in human history where people are genuinely happy with the lifespans that they can expect to live, and, at the end of their time, they are able to leave the world without regrets or the sense that there are things left undone.