As We Live Longer, How Should Life Change? There Is a Blueprint.

The majority of children born in the developed world now have a good chance of making it to their 100th birthday. They are also on track to live, learn, work and retire in systems and institutions that were set up when their grandparents were children.

Career and education in the United States (and in much of the developed world) evolved to meet the needs of a different era than the one we currently live in — one in which the (mostly white and male) people who received postsecondary education completed it all in their 20s; in which people retired from work by age 65 and often died just a decade or so later; and in which half the population (the female one, of course) was expected to remain available full-time for family caregiving needs.

But as improvements in infant mortality and health care added decades of life expectancy at birth — and, for the most well-off, many additional years of health in older age — lives in the developed world evolved faster than the institutions designed to support them, said Laura Carstensen, a psychology professor at Stanford University and the founding director of the Stanford Center on Longevity.

As a result, we’re spending these longer lives stressed out by the pressures of conforming to systems that don’t really fit — not in the later stage of life, or the decades that come before it.

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