Aging is what you make of it -- and maybe we can all take comfort in the fact that aging is an inevitability for everyone. In a thought-provoking blog post for the Brookings Institute, Robert Holzmann ponders the world's aging population. He says "Population aging is likely the most important socioeconomic change since the dawn of mankind, the importance of which equals that of climate change." He suggests that, with increasing life expectancy, "the best response is generally to lengthen individuals’ working lives (i.e., defer retirement)."
But working longer has its own challenges. Holzmann writes, "Three necessary ingredients for promoting longer working life are clear: individuals must be skilled, healthy, and motivated. The policies to achieve this, however, are not well understood or available. ...Population aging can only be successfully addressed with innovative pension, labor market, and other reforms that encourage and enable older people to stay healthy, skilled, and motivated."
As to the prescription for "happy aging," Holzmann says research "identifies four key areas for individual action:
- Have a purpose in life that is on your mind when you rise and get ready for the day. E.g., a paid or unpaid job, a hobby, or another occupation that makes life worthwhile;
- Exercise—it helps one to stay healthy, reduces stress, and is a natural fountain of lifelong youth. A healthy lifestyle strengthens the outcome;
- Stay socially embedded through family, friends, or other forms of social interaction, as these established psychological mirrors are critical for individual wellbeing;
- Take care of the 'birds and bees,' a major part of one’s humanity throughout life."