Living longer

I’d heard of this anecdotally, but here’s some data on life expectancy in India.  In 1960, the average Indian could hope to live to about 42.  In 2008, that number has gone upto 64.  By the time many of us get to 60, advances in science will help many of us get to 90+.  It may not be a pretty life, with needles and drugs, but for what it’s worth, you’ll live longer.

One generation of Indians has already benefited and suffered from this increase in longevity.  The benefits are obvious.  The problems sometimes less so.

Consider the dramatic increase in the cost of living and the relatively lower savings potential of people who retired in the 90’s.  Not all of them had the right investments, and several of them now struggle financially.

In an older age, this would not have been such a problem.  Joint families took care of the aged.  Not always pretty to look at, but a social norm ensured a certain level of decency for the elders.  But  nuclear families and the promise of the west have robbed many people of the happy old age.  Instead, many are now shuttling between children’s homes (Baghbaan anybody?) or hoping that their children will visit.  Many are reliant on the kindness of neighbours.  Old age homes have not yet developed as a concept (although old age communities are now springing up across India).

Ideally, people should be allowed to work longer.  But how?  The retirement age hasn’t changed much in the last 50 years – maybe from 58 to 62?  A generation of younger, more energetic Indians lay first claim to the jobs on offer.  The skills that were so useful in the license raj economy are seen as less useful in the global, service economy that is India today.

We can’t say that our generation wasn’t warned.  The question is what shall we do (Ok, besides trying to accumulate more wealth)

Peter Drucker has written about it here.  The essential issue is one of “managing the second part of your life”, and one of his key points is that one needs to start early.  People do not start doing something at 60.  They start at 35/40 and become good enough at it by 60 to consider it as a serious occupation.

Absolutely.  One spends about 20 years in formal education preparing for a career.  That career starts in our 20’s, when we’re at our physical best and mentally flexible.  Trying to start something at 60 is not going to work.  We aren’t going to be able enough, or bold enough to experiment.  So start early.  Experiment.  Moonlight.  Change careers.  Mentor a start-up.  Take a class in your kid’s school.  Do a PhD.

Just don’t get stuck in the rut of the job at hand.  You’ll need more than that when they hand you the golden fob!