Having discussed throughout the day the scientific breakthroughs behind potential increases in human lifespan and the possibilities that await us as we adjust our personal and professional lives to this new reality, our last panel built on these themes to cover what it means to live a good life. In line with the Forum’s approach which is about all of life, rather than just the end of life, we heard from experts about how different generations are adapting to longer lifespans and what is required from individuals, society, businesses and governments to support them on this journey.
Dr. Eliza Filby, a generations historian explained that far from being unprepared for the 100 year life, millennials (people born between 1981—1997) and generation Z (people born from mid 1990s) are already living a multi-stage life. However, she stressed that the value systems and drivers of these generation need to be better understood as this will have implications for how society evolves moving forward.
Reflecting on midlife transitions, Pamela Druckerman, the journalist and author talked about how the definition of middle age is changing and thus, to quote from the title of her latest book, there are no more grown-ups. But as Pamela explained, this cohort finds itself in a challenging position where it is caring for older parents and children at the same time, while facing the need to reinvent themselves for the second half of their lives.
The topic of old age generated an impassionate response from Dame Esther Rantzen, who spoke about her work at the Silver Line and the challenge of loneliness as families become more dispersed. As we live longer, we do not know how much of our journey in the ultra-long lives we will face alone and so it is paramount we increase empathy in our society.
Our final two panelists tackled the all-important issue of how we look after our minds and our souls as we live longer lives. Robert Rowland Smith, the author and philosopher, and Marie-Elsa Bragg, author and priest, talked about how we reconnect with who we are under the pressures of modern lives, how we prepare for a good death and what happens to the lure of eternal life.
Despite a dose of realism about the challenges which await us as we adjust to ultra-long lives, the panel was overall positive and hopeful of our ability as a society to adapt. To achieve inter-generational potential it is imperative that we augment inter-generational interactions and develop a better understanding of the different cohorts which will co-exist which each other for longer than ever before.