What to do with those extra years of life

Virginia Postrel addresses how American society can move beyond seeing age 65 or retirement as the end of a career or life (“Floridization”):

It’s to change the pictures in our heads, to give up the images that “Floridization” evokes, as either a warning or an implicit ideal. People do not automatically become crotchety, backward-looking, and idle when they reach their 60s.

But changing that picture means exchanging today’s architectural metaphor, “building a career,” for another one: adaptive reuse. This is the human-capital equivalent of turning industrial lofts into apartments, factories into medical schools, power plants into art museums, or saw mills into shopping centers. Your original career may be economically obsolete, or you may just want a change, but your knowledge and experience still have their charms. Instead of equating success with a steady progression of better-paying jobs, each related to the previous one, this model emphasizes taking on new challenges and making new contributions, even if that means going back to school, taking a pay cut, or starting as a trainee when you’re middle-aged.

One version of this idea is the “encore career” advocated by Marc Freedman, who has made one of the most prominent attempts to think what how longer, healthier lives should mean for Americans’ careers.

This is an important topic to be discussing with longer life spans, limited funds for government retirement programs, and economic times that may require citizens to work to an older age. Those with more years have plenty to contribute to society and to simply write them off as past their time is foolish: it is not good for these individuals, their families and communities, and society.

Implicit in this discussion is an American emphasis on youth. Postrel cites one journalist who seems to suggest that youth equals progress and that being older automatically leads to loneliness. This may only appear to be the case because our society doesn’t leave much productive space for those who have retired. As I recently discussed, being older can lead to increased happiness and wisdom, two traits out society could use.

h/t Instapundit

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