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Aug. 10, 2022, 5:00 a.m. EDT

You’re not just a number: think of life as stages, not ages

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By Richard Eisenberg

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I also hope employers help their employees think about longevity and…support them if they need a career sabbatical to rejuvenate or to go back to school and get new skills. If you invest in the people in your company, they’ll stay longer.

Reaching the last act

What’s the “closing” stage of life? That sounds grim.

It’s at a certain point where you start thinking about your legacy. That can be a very important stage, and fulfilling — where you start thinking about writing your memoir or the lessons you want your family to have from you.

It’s also about planning all the things you need to do with wills and trusts and advance directives. Unfortunately, most people’s advance directives are not completed, and their wishes are not honored, and people suffer.

Why isn’t there much assistance helping people make transitions later in life?

It’s happening more in other countries with longevity strategies. Denmark does it; Israel does it. Both of those countries have a digital literacy campaign for everybody over 50 every year. People are going to need that kind of support.

One company that gets it

Do you think businesses are adapting to this idea of “stage, not age?”

Some are. One that’s really intrigued me is Warby Parker. /zigman2/quotes/229389137/composite WRBY -1.04% When they first came out, they targeted young people. This was the hipster brand of eyeglasses, and the user interface was geared toward the young techie. But then they learned that there’s tremendous demand for progressive lenses, which turned out to be pretty expensive. And virtually every older adult is going to need a set. And they started marketing to them, but not as old people. It was the same kind of hipster frames so you and your grandchild or child might go shopping together for glasses. Now that’s over 50% of their revenues.

Are there certain fields that are the slowest to get this notion?

Some of the service industries have forced retirement ages to make room for the next generation. Manufacturing hasn’t totally caught up.

Almost every industry needs to have a new concept about their longevity strategy.

Also see: Assaults on the ‘gerontocracy’ reek of ageism — creativity and inventiveness don’t fade with birthdays

The ‘five-quarter life’

You write about what you call “the five-quarter life” in an era of longer longevity. What does “the five-quarter life” mean?

When I was thinking about how we are not living a three-stage life anymore, I wondered: “How do we talk about life over 100 years?” At first, I thought maybe it should be a four-quarter life. But then I realized, there’s really this  extra  period. And we don’t know what it looks like. So, I just called that the “fifth quarter.”

I read obituaries constantly and every time it’s somebody over 100, I’m always so curious: What did they  do  with those years? That excites me.

That excites me, too. But what worries me is the financial side of the fifth quarter.

This is the greatest challenge in our country. We don’t have enough social safety nets, we don’t have tax deductions along the way for caregiving or tax deductions if you go back to school in your later years, to work longer and earn more.

Most people are not saving and investing enough.

And there’s no long-term care system in the country to help people pay for the costs of older age.

Right. Most people think Medicare is going to cover it and it’s not.

Many of our readers are in their 50s or 60s. What do you want them to do with the idea of “stage, not age”? How can they put that into use as they’re living their lives?

They can do it in several ways. They can become advocates for themselves and not define themselves by age.

Think of yourself — at whatever age you are — as someone with many capabilities and many ways to contribute to society, to your family, to your company.

Thinking about starting something no matter what age you are is one of the most exciting things you can do.

Don’t miss: Sex and the 60s, 70s and beyond: how love and sex change — or don’t — as we age

Future business trends

Are there business opportunities that address the idea of stages for people who want to start a business in the second half of life?

I think if they look at their own list of where they’ve been frustrated, that’s where they’ll get an idea.

A whole sector that I think needs to expand is the idea of care navigators. If you’re a caregiver, it is incredibly complicated to figure out how to build the infrastructure. Getting through the medical system in the United States can be complex.

Career transitions, career coaching and life-transition planning, I think, is a whole industry just ripe for older adults to take the lead because of their experience and their wisdom.

But starting something new, no matter your age, doesn’t have to be about launching a business; it could it be learning a new skill, right?

Exactly. Or it could be  volunteering with people who are different ages .

Don’t get locked into “I’m in my retirement” stage or “I’m in my body hurts and everything’s falling apart” stage. There’s so much more you can enjoy.

Richard Eisenberg is the former senior web editor of the Money & Security and Work & Purpose channels of Next Avenue and former managing editor for the site. He is the author of “How to Avoid a Mid-Life Financial Crisis” and has been a personal finance editor at Money, Yahoo, Good Housekeeping, and CBS Moneywatch. 

This article is reprinted by permission from  , © 2022 Twin Cities Public Television, Inc. All rights reserved.

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