As the UK basks in our hottest summer since ‘76, we stop for a moment to enjoy the coolest stories from this month, including unlikely lifeguards, the next Silicon Valley and a turbo-charged inter-generational bike race.
One thing you don’t automatically consider in later life is what your ideal summer job might be. But in the US, some older adults are finding out according to this fascinating story in the Washington Post.
Apparently, an increasing number of swimming pools are struggling to fill summer posts normally staffed by students, so are turning to more ‘seasoned workers’ to fill the gaps. According to the article, increasing academic pressure and sporting commitments, as well as changing immigration policies, are making it harder (or reducing the desire to) take such part-time jobs.
“There’s been an ‘age twist’,” said Paul Harrington, a professor of labour markets at Drexel University in Philadelphia. “There’s this idea out there among teens that work isn’t such a cool thing anymore — and so who’s replacing them in the workforce? Older Americans, 55 and up. It's led to the parks departments, hotels and country clubs who need the lifeguards to "think outside the box".
‘Thinking outside of the box’, according to the American Lifeguard Association, means they have started approaching baby boomers, seniors, retired lawyers and accountants, even suggesting clubs should consider some of their regular swimmers.
No doubt some visitors will be surprised to see their new lifeguards, but as we know, the rules of ageing are changing – we’re living for longer, and can be fitter for longer. Put simply by one new lifeguard, retired maths teacher Bill Bower, 63; “It’s very tiring when I finally come home at night. But I’m in the best shape I’ve been in in decades”. The next Baywatch reboot could look very different indeed.
Striking, visible signs of how society is changing won’t just help us all rethink ageing, but also help shatter some of the clichés that still plague milestones like turning 50.
Explored in this Guardian article – ‘Midlife crisis? It’s a myth. Why life gets better after 50’, author Jonathan Rauch looks to reassure that everyone goes through different levels of happiness in life, but ultimately it keeps rising until its peak somewhere in your 70s.
The evidence is there, he writes; “In 2011, a study led by the Stanford University psychologist Laura Carstensen concluded: Contrary to the popular view that youth is the best time in life, the present findings suggest that the peak of emotional life may not occur until well into the seventh decade’”.
When people think to themselves that at 50, ‘my best years are behind me’, Jonathan promises, “the reverse is in fact true. As we traverse our 50s, 60s and 70s ageing makes us more positive and equable, and less stressed and regretful. This so-called positivity effect even seems to provide some emotional armour against the negative effects of physical decline and ill-health”.
We’ve had years of bad press about ageing. It’s about time everyone saw regular stories like this, discussing the positive psychological realities of each new phase of life. It will be different for all, and no one says it will be easy, but if we approach it with hope rather than fear then surely that tops doom and gloom? Bring on the lifeguard training!
Who’ll Own Ageing?
Staying with the US, one state taking their ageing society very seriously is Massachusetts. Known globally for its Institute of Technology (MIT), it may come as no surprise to learn the state now wants to become the 'Silicon Valley for age-tech'.
According to this article in the Boston Globe, a group of ‘age-tech’ pioneers in the state “…are part of a Massachusetts cluster of entrepreneurs who are applying the state’s potent mix of brainpower and technology prowess to an ancient problem: easing the burdens of growing old. Government and business leaders believe the emerging industry could have huge potential for the state’s economy, and for aging populations around the world”.
Innovations already emerging include a robot that reminds older adults to take their medication, wireless headphones suitable for those with hearing loss and VR software that can take housebound elders anywhere in the world. But their bigger plan, according to state Governor Charlie Baker is to “reduce social isolation and loneliness for the older population”.
Having seen the impact the actual Silicon Valley has had on the world, if Massachusetts is able to corner the market on 'age-tech', it should act as a magnet to innovators and investors for generations to come. And after Amazon paid nearly $1 billion to buy PillPack, an online pharmacy, the race is already on.
With so many great articles this month, we take a quick look here at the best of the rest.
Firstly, we saw this amusing piece about a new ad for bike manufacturer Specialized, promoting their new electric bike. In it they pit the world’s fastest cyclist, Peter Sagan, against 81-year-old ‘Grandma Joan’ to see who is king of the hills. Watch the ad to see how Peter fares, but as you might assume there’s a chance he’ll be asking for a rematch.
Next up was this eye-catching headline - Fountain of Youth Ubertrend Will Create a $200 Billion Market by 2020. Now that’s a big market and not that far away so read the article to see how they plan to do it, but in summary it’s by listening to author, entrepreneur, adjunct professor, motivational speaker and trend forecaster Michael Tchong.
If ‘age-defying tech’ isn’t your thing, then what about style icons making waves regardless of age, or religion? In this piece from the Washington Post, we met 64-year-old Hadiyah Muhammad, just one of the charismatic entrants to 2018’s Ms. Senior DC Pageant – now in its 38th year. Age certainly hasn’t diminished her competitive streak, of her ambitions Hadiyah said; “Everybody wants the same thing. They want that crown”.
And if all this has left you feeling a little maxed-out, then why not enjoy this piece from The Telegraph, revealing ‘the real way to keep your brain sharp in old age’. For those familiar with high intensity interval training (HIT) being one way to retain physical fitness, the good news is that LISS, or Low Intensity Steady State may be just as effective. We’ll drink (a wheatgrass juice) to that.
That’s it for this month. Be sure to follow the Agile Ageing Alliance on twitter and until next month, #BeAgile!
Image used with permission: Copyright - Joe Pizzio.