Gerontolescence – Longevity is Giving Seniors a Second Crack at Adolescence

While claims that 50 is the new 30 may be slightly exaggerated, more older adults between 50 and 75 are using this time in their adulthood to take a journey of self discovery and age specialists have even given this stage of life a name; gerontolescence, or a second adolescence.

Whether it’s starting on a new career path or pursuing interests pushed aside while raising a family, living longer and often healthier lives has given many older adults an opportunity to open doors to new experiences or mastering new skills.  The baby boomer generation is spearheading this fresh attitude towards aging as a time to take chances, follow your passions, create a legacy or knock out your bucket list. 

Studies have found that seniors who feel they have a purpose-driven life age better both physically and emotionally.  Not only do people who feel their lives have purpose maintain function and independence longer, a sense of purpose is linked with longer life, lower risk for disease, better sleep and healthier behaviors.   According to a 2017 study, published in the JAMA Psychiatry, a sense of purpose plays an important role in maintaining physical function among older adults.

Baby boomers were a generation of rebellious teenagers, now in or approaching retirement age, who are re-writing what it means to be an older adult.  Boomers are starting new businesses in droves, mastering new technology, running marathons and generally staying productive well into  old age.   With greater longevity and better health, older adults are experiencing a longer middle age, continuing to work longer, participating in social causes and advocacy and helping to fuel the economy.

This longevity revolution in which older adults are actively participating in society and demanding to be heard is changing how we define old age.   Elders are working to create age-friendly communities, support systems for adults aging in place and influencing policymakers to protect and improve services for seniors.   

By 2050, the number of people over 60 will double to more than 2 billion or 22 per cent of the global population and life expectancy in many developed countries is already over 80.  And just as older adults born between 1945 and 1965 worked for women’s rights, racial equality and sexual freedom, they are now calling for action to support the rights and needs of their peers over 50.