In 2017 I read a book called ‘The 100 year Life’, by Lynda Gratton and Andrew Scott. The book covers many fascinating themes, but the basic premise is that a child born 100 years ago (Captain Tom Moore, for example) had a 1% chance of living to 100. Whereas research predicts that 33% of children born today will live to be 100.
The name of this firm, Barnaby Cecil, was taken from the middle names of my two boys and as I read this book, I became fascinated by the idea that they and their friends might live that long.
Captain Tom would no longer be an anomaly; the world would resemble Acciaroli, the village in Italy where about a third of the people who live there – roughly 300 – are more than 100 years old.
But what would this mean in practice?
The authors of the book explain that there needs to be a wholesale restructuring of work, leisure, and society in order to ensure such longevity becomes a gift, rather than a curse.
Andrew says that this is something that hasn’t yet been thought through and needs to be urgently: “All of us are living longer than our parents… we’re being given a lot more time. But no one is thinking about how we restructure and redesign life to make the most of that,” he says.
Both authors feel that at the moment the conversation centres around the last 10 years of life – the pension deficit and Alzheimer’s for example – but that the implications are much more wide ranging.
It does make you think about our jobs – how much longer would we have to work for in order to afford a comfortable retirement, and what would this mean for our careers? The typical career trajectory might look very different if we’re having to keep our skills, education – and momentum – up-to-date in one field.
How would organisations need to be restructured in order adapt and to maintain a steady workforce? Would more people be forced to go it alone and start their own businesses in order to create a more flexible environment?
We can already see people adapting to this today, particularly those who have ‘portfolio careers’ – that is, multiple freelance jobs rather than a traditional, full-time role.
But it’s not just about work
The authors point to research shows that those who live happy and fulfilled lives have significant relationships with other people, but ask: how do you sustain that over a 100-year period? “What does it mean for marriage and families for example,” they ask. “Imagine living in a family with up to 4 generations living with you.” That’s a lot of potential family arguments – and a never-ending list of Christmas and birthday presents…
And finally, leisure. The authors say that our modern concept of leisure is in fact based on the industrial revolution: “We have the opportunity now to completely restructure leisure and think about it less as ‘recreation’ more as ‘re-creation’, an opportunity to develop ideas and build our skills.”
The current lockdown situation may have given people a taste of things to come – particularly those who haven’t been working. With fewer options and less to do, we’ve been able to experience a slower pace of life and felt what it’s like to have more time.
Some people may already be having second thoughts about this – even Simon Cowell has reneged on his wish to be carcinogenically frozen.
What would you do with 100 years? The authors of the book say it’s up to us to make sure longevity is your gift.
This is a topic we intend to explore in our upcoming podcast series. If you have themes or questions you’d like covered, please email us.