If you follow the present global narrative on aging demographics, declining birthrates and our socioeconomic journey through a 21st century longevity society, you are allowed to feel somehow perplexed in the challenge of following the complex plotline. One minute we’re told we’re falling off a demographic cliff, or it’s an aging tsunami, where in a future by 2030 – all statistical roads lead to a dystopian landscape largely populated by seniors.
At a macro-level, this global discussion on the longevity revolution, as it is often called, has been taking place for the many years I’ve been researching it since 2001. Think tank organizations or coalitions at regional and international forums have more than adequately positioned the agenda for people on the street to make some meaning of it in our communities. Here we are – 2016, and this discussion is gathering steam, almost bursting for a Malcolm Gladwell tipping point.
Welcome to a mezzotopia. We are in a place in time where the discussion sounds discomforting, feeling some days like were half way – mezzo – with that media driven dystopian language in our ears. As patient or impatient as we may be with progress, we must push the envelope to help individualize the message in a new narrative, about how and why our life course model needs to change as a result of the predicted expectations for extended lifetimes.
How we choose to design and chunk out our life journey is only the beginning thread in the first chapter of the longevity narrative. In the October 2015, World Economic Forum white paper, titled How 21st-Century Longevity Can Create Markets and Drive Economic Growth; the call continues for the countries of the world, with all their variances in shifting demographics, to take advantage of the opportunities in what they describe as the “evolution of emerging markets”.
As Michael Hodin of the Global Coalition on Aging says in his recent Huff/Post 50 article:
“First, put “aging” at the top of the global agenda and direct serious public policy research asking the question: What are the principal public policy changes for aging societies that are likely to create pathways for economic growth? …. But it must be bigger: aging is equally about the young and the old.”
Yet, with so many competing issues on the global agenda – like the major increase in migration patterns occurring as an outcome of war and social unrest in certain parts of the world – aging may not be our single most immediately pressing concern. That said, we can’t ignore that all these “global agenda” items are all interconnected. What does aging and the promise of longevity look like to the migrant children living in the world today?
So yes, we are at a defining point in world history where we are in a position, with a healthy measure of foresight, to make fundamental shifts in macro policies – caring optimistically – for a sustainable future vision that will always be a work in progress. Here now, where economic and social inequalities, differences in cultural views on aging and debates about generational priorities; all reside in this narrative in a longevity society.
Welcome to a mezzotopia.