Bruce Frankel is a seasoned journalist with USA Today and People magazine, New York Times best-selling author, and poet. His new book What Should I do with the Rest of My Life?features twelve intimate, inspiring stories of second-half success (post age 60), celebrating people who refused to let illness, stereotypes, and assumptions about aging stop them from realizing their dreams of becoming, among other things, an artist, athlete, activist, inventor, entrepreneur, dancer, teacher, filmmaker, psychologist, writer, and the nation’s oldest park ranger. They all created their paths by walking on it.
Why Venture Capitalists Should Be Investing in Older Entrepreneurs: The young may have good ideas, but there is no substitute for experience when management, marketing and finance skills are necessary to turn ideas into successful and sustainable ventures. Recent research across multiple industries has shown that businesses launched by people over 55 are twice as likely to be successful than those started by people ages 20-34. The highest rate of entrepreneurial activity in the U.S. has shifted to the 55 to 64 age group, with 25% of the 78 million baby boomers planning to continue working after 60 as entrepreneurs.
Callings – Using Your Inner Resources to Innovate: With 78 million baby boomers beginning to turn 65, an enormous demographic shift is underway that in less than 20 years – one generation – will place a significant part of the population between age 65 to 84. Many organizations are strategically rethinking employing people into their 60’s and 70’s, offering workplace flexibility, snowbird jobs, and intergenerational teams to promote transfer of knowledge and innovative problem solving. Re-careering, acquiring new skills and shifting to new occupations with new identities will be required of many and if treated as a development opportunity, open new and exciting vistas.
The Poetics NOT Politics of Aging: The politics of aging should not solely be a debate about Medicare and Social Security. Ironically, to get to a more fruitful politics we need to embrace the poetics of aging, the positive, creative aspects of advancing our lives with happiness and fulfillment, as opposed to the frantic, superficial distractions of perpetually chasing a cosmetic youthfulness. The boomer generation has the power to remake aging be creating awareness, respect and advocacy for purposeful work, civic involvement, and an active lifestyle the way the generation has redefined work and in essence society throughout its history.
New Understanding of Happiness and Well-Being: Studies show that grit is one of the traits of self-discipline. It is the combination of very high persistence and a high passion to reach an objective, and may involve overcoming adversity. People who are invested in an effort to get something done pursue deep learning with flexibility, as opposed to a fixed mindset across a prescribed path. They flourish, which manifests then in happiness and enhanced well-being.
An Agenda for Change for a Nation of Constant Eaters: While there are many causes for our nation’s bloated debt problem and ballooning budget, one important aspect is healthcare and Medicare costs. Health-related obesity costs are projected to reach over $340 billion in 2018, with roughly 60% of the cost born by the federal government. Studies continue to point to an increasingly sedentary lifestyle and our insatiable appetite for food that is bad for us, off of which the food industry makes healthy profits (pun intended!)
Moving Our Society Back to a Physically Active One: As a society we weigh an average of 25 pounds more than we did in 1960. Studies show when people are physically and intellectually active the risk of developing the symptoms of Alzheimer’s is 30-40% less than that of the sedentary. Compelling evidence reinforces walking at least 30 minutes four times a week prevents the loss of grey matter as we age by increasing the amount of blood circulation to the brain, increasing the number of connections that cells make to one another.
The Times They ARE a’ Changin’: So go the lyrics from iconic Bob Dylan who just turned 70. Great artists in music and fine art are always evolving as they know stasis is disabling. Neural flexibility allows us to learn, prompted by actively listening to the views and arguments that are contrary to the ones to which we habitually subscribe. Rather than succumb to the negative messages about aging, we should change our words to engender personal development, which will circle back and influence our thinking, and in turn affect the brain which impacts the body.
Tapping into the Power of Possibility: We see possibility in our lives through paying attention to the moments we are living in, really noticing mindfully rather than going by rote, or living in fear of what could happen. Uncertainty is good and seeing possibility through others changes the world and our own roles in the process. A meaningful life helping others trumps everything. Possibility is not the same as a prediction; it is being open to a chance, an opportunity to reveal a new strength.
What REALLY is Success?: In the stories of accomplished people from What Should I do with the Rest of My Life? success manifested as a way of being, reflecting a combination of fulfillment, achievement, recognition and affirmation by others, engagement, and living a life in harmony with one’s intrinsic values – the real and positive “me.” At the root of longevity for many is a burning need to volunteer and help others, coupled with self-discipline and perseverance.
Changing the Brain through Exercise: Contemporary research studies reveal that you can “teach an old dog new tricks,” particularly when mental agility is tied in with physical activity. The brain can change and reshape itself if it is challenged through novel learning, discipline and exercise, the latter mitigating mood swings and damaging stress which interfere with memory and learning.
Becoming Empowered to Unleash Social Change: A big part of where people draw energy as they pursue passions is from the belief that what they are doing is important to a purpose greater than their own. What may have begun as fulfilling the self becomes self-fulfilling and generative with outward spirals of impact, with four attributes commonly manifested: a) following their curiosity, b) setting mindful goals, c) self-appreciate and receive affirmation early from others, and d) open to explore and enlarge their initial possibilities, and along the way go beyond goal focused to process-motivated and collaborating with others.