The question isn’t if a “100-year life” is coming, but how soon? It’s inevitable. I’m excited to think about living on this earth longer and having more opportunities to make a positive impact.
As co-founder of a business that offers training for in-demand skills, I think a lot about lifelong learning. The world is transforming so rapidly that jobs continually disappear and new ones appear. It used to be that traditional education was this thing you received in your youth. “College-educated” was an adjective you applied to yourself, and either you were or you weren’t.
But now, the skills you need throughout your life change. Those you need when you’re 25 years old look very different when you’re 35, 45, 55 or older. Your education should evolve throughout your entire life. To stay relevant, you need to adapt — always. The idea of a “100-year life” multiplies that reality even further.
Those who are living to be 100 years old – assuming that they’re productive and healthy – will no longer retire in their 60s. Instead, they’ll have opportunities to witness more economic shifts and discover more opportunities for lifelong learning.
The idea that you have one profession throughout your lifetime will go away. Instead, people will have a kaleidoscope of careers. Think of it: “In my 20s, I was a digital marketer, in my 30s, a programmer, in my 40s, I was flying cars… ”
Your learning and career should go hand in hand, not “first you get educated, then you have a career.”
If you’re living to 100 – or more – it’s hard to predict what you might be doing in your later years. My company, General Assembly, is teaching certain programming language that’s popular now, in 2017. What we’ll be teaching in the future likely hasn’t been invented yet.
Still, as a society, we’ll need to ensure that we’re doing what humans are fundamentally best at. To me, that means focusing on areas of creativity. To be human is to create. For a 100-year life, I hope that means creating as much as possible, be it art, music, community or a new business.
Despite all the technological advances we have to look forward to, I don’t see them competing with raw human creativity anytime soon. Or with the potential for deep relationships. As people get older, they need more care — something that can’t be done with a robot, app or website.
The idea of living to 100 is exciting to me. I’m alive during some of the most quickly evolving times in history, and I’d be able to experience more of that.
But I do have fears about where the world is headed. I worry about climate change, the geopolitical climate and the potential for war, strife and famine. How will humans living longer further tax the planet? How will it impact our economy? How much of this “extra” time will we spend in ill health?
At 100, would I simply be another person taking from the world? That doesn’t feel morally just to me. I feel it’s a privilege to be alive, healthy and conscious, pursuing my passion. With that gratitude comes a big sense of responsibility for leaving the planet a better place than I found it.
If I’m able to live to that age, I’d want to still be doing something positive and meaningful. The idea of retiring in the traditional sense doesn’t appeal to me. I don’t ever want to stop creating and working. I also want to relax and enjoy life as much as possible; that’s the additional piece of the puzzle. But it would be unfortunate if we’re only able to extend our lives, not the years that we’re active and healthy. I want to be able to travel, volunteer and have deep relationships.
Not that we should throw all that stuff to the end of our lives. Cultural consciousness is already moving away from that idea now. In my work, I interact with people in their 50s and 60s who are taking classes, learning new skills and starting their own businesses. They’re not saying, “I’m too old to go back to school.” They’re not stuck in a job because they feel it’s too late to change. They don’t feel like they’re past their prime, which is inspiring to me.
And who knows? Maybe five years from now, they’ll try something else new.
We all have the ability to plug in and become relevant, no matter what stage of life we’re in. We also have the opportunity to be as present as possible. If I get to live longer, I don’t want to value time any less. To me, there’s no point in taking 80 years of existence and simply spreading it out to 100.
The more we can educate, uplift and empower each other, the better chance we have of not just living to be 100 years old, but saving the world.
Matthew Brimer is an creative instigator, social entrepreneur and community builder. He is the co-founder of General Assembly, a 21st century educational institution with campuses and clients around the world, and the co-founder of Daybreaker, a global community and lifestyle brand producing conscious morning dance experiences across the globe. He is also an advisor and angel investor in a handful of early-stage startups.
This post is paid for by AARP.