Members of the baby boomer generation, who in their youth proclaimed, “Don’t trust anyone over 30,” would rather not be segregated with people their own age as they grow older.
As they watch their elders living longer—to age 83 on average in Singapore, 81 in the U.K., and 79 in the U.S., with more people becoming centenarians each year— boomers are rejecting the notion that they should spend their later years devoted to leisure, isolated from the experiences of younger people. Growing numbers of U.S. boomers—currently 55 to 73—are working beyond the traditional retirement age, going back to school, and choosing to age in place in familiar neighborhoods instead of moving to senior communities. As a result, they’re connecting with people of diverse ages.
“For the first time in history, there are multiple generations alive together for long stretches of time, and that’s creating more contact and similarities among older, middle-aged, and young people,” says Laura Carstensen, a Stanford psychology professor and director of the Stanford Center on Longevity. “When you have people in their 70s sitting next to kids in their 20s in classrooms and workplace cubicles, you get more creativity and productivity, research shows, and less age stereotyping.”
A 21-year-old today is more likely to have a living grandmother than her counterpart a century ago was to have a living mother. And the 21-year-old and her 70-year-old grandmother may both be employed; just as the young need income to support themselves, many older people lack sufficient savings to fund two or three decades of retirement.
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