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4 ways to be older and better

By Jennie L. Phipps ·
Monday, August 3, 2015
Posted: 4 pm ET

The writer's great-grandmother.

I've been working on a family tree and thinking about longevity a lot. I found my great-grandmother's obituary, which said she was born in 1831 and died at 91 of the "great weight of old age."

My 95-year-old aunt, who remembers her grandmother, says the woman wasn't fat -- just old. Her grandmother also was grumpy, my aunt says.

I was sorry to hear that, but I think I understand it. She lived too long for her time. Even today, living long isn't synonymous with living well.

Be prepared to live longer

"We've added these extra years of life so fast that culture hasn't had a chance to catch up, so the only time of life that is getting longer is old age. The thing that we need to ask ourselves is, 'What can we do to make sure that longer lives include quality of life?'" said Laura Carstensen, director of Stanford University’s Center on Longevity, in a panel discussion at a recent Milken Institute Global Conference in Los Angeles.

Here are 4 thoughts on this issued raised in this panel discussion that I think anyone who is planning for a long life should consider:

  • Stop using the word "retirement." Retirement suggests an endless vacation. Most of us aren't ever going to be able to live like this anyway -- even if we want to -- so stop talking about your later years as a time of leisure. Call this phase of your life something different, like "Life 10.0."
  • Don't be underutilized. People don't become useless at age 65 years and 3 months. Before you clock out of work for good, find a purpose for the next stage of life. Decide "what's last and what's next" says Marc Freedman, founder of, a nonprofit that concentrates on tapping the skills and experience of those in midlife and beyond to improve communities and the world. If a career change sounds like too much heavy lifting at this stage of the game, then think about "drawing on midlife experience and devoting it to new ends," Freedman suggests.
  • Plan for having fun and good relationships. "We worry about having an IRA and a 401(k), having a plan for good health and exercise and how to eat more kale, but we should also worry about having a plan for love and happiness," says Michael Eisner, former CEO of the Walt Disney Co.
  • Fight for the right to age well. Ageism is the last frontier of discrimination, says AARP CEO Jo Ann Jenkins."We don’t accept discrimination for race, gender, sex, finances, but we allow ageist thinking to go on for people 50 and older. When are we going to stop that?" she asks.

On top of these issues, living long can be expensive. Here are 8 ways to hedge a longevity bet.

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