Help! I’m turning 100

In the western world, many of us are so well fed, looked after, medically treated and rich, that my peers and I will live at least 25 years longer than we thought we would. I’m turning 100 – not anytime soon, but in half a century I will, definitely.

What does this mean for my career, my financial plans, and my marriage? How will I turn 100? Will I still be well fed, looked after, medically treated and rich? Or will I be hungry, lonely, sick and poor?

Last month, as part of a program for Celebrating Gender and Diversity, my employer CARE Australia organised a talk with Age Discrimination Commissioner Dr. Kay Patterson. Dr. Kay Patterson is an amazing person with an impressive resume in Australian politics and a fantastic sense of humour, whose enthusiasm for life and doing the right thing is contagious and highly inspiring. I never say that you should do something, but this time I do. You should inform yourself on this website from the Australian Human Rights Commission: The Power of Oldness.

Dr. Patterson talked about how my generation will turn 100, easily, and how we aren’t prepared for it. She recommended we all read The 100-Year Life by Lynda Gratton and Andrew Scott about living and working in an age of longevity. I immediately purchased it on Kindle.

Until this talk, I had felt that I’m entering the final stage of my professional life and that I would have at most another 10 to 15 years before retirement. Now I realise that I’ve only just began my third career (after being an artist for 15 years and a life coach for 10, I commenced in HR only last year). I will have at least 25 years to go until retirement. My HR career will be the longest career of my life. I will have plenty of time to actually make something of it, and truly grow and develop. I now know that this third career isn’t one with which I just bridge these last years until retirement. Retirement is too far away to be thinking about – I have so much time before it becomes real, that all I have to think about is work.

How do I make the best of this career that will take the largest part of my working life? Study, learn, grow, invest, develop, and enjoy it! It’s not the Autumn of my life – it’s actually Spring! 50 is the new 25. I’ll have my professional Summer in 10 years time. Autumn won’t present itself for another 20 years.

This realisation causes a massive paradigm shift. It means I’m young. It means I still have plenty of opportunities.

Dr. Kay Patterson woke me up. She shook and kicked my assumptions about life. What a great talk she gave. I wish we had recorded it. During her long career in politics, she fought against ageism and still does with a passion that we don’t expect to see in people her age, which is ageism exactly. She is the best representative of the vibrant older professional that she fights for. She advocates inclusion of older workers with a zest for life that I sometimes lack at 50. What a great role model she proves to be. What an inspiring example she sets.

Thanks to her, I can enter the second half of my life knowing that age discrimination is being battled. Thanks to her, I understand that as we grow older as a population, age discrimination cannot survive. Society will have to evolve with the growing percentage of older professionals, and it will increasingly easily accept older candidates for employees and experts. It must, for its own survival.

Have I felt that I had missed the boat, professionally, jumping careers like I have and getting “too old for this” – now I know that I’ve only just began and the world lies at my feet again like it did when I was 20.

I’m going to study again. I have found a new mentor. I have a plan. I know what I want. I now know that I’ll have plenty of years to have my plan unfold and succeed. There’s no rush. There’s time to make it happen. Steady on. There wasn’t just the one boat. There’ll be many boats to come that I can still embark on.

Instead of worrying about this much longer future, I anticipate it with joy, relief and excitement. How adventurous it is to have all these years in front of me. You and I have been given the gift of time. Let’s use it wisely, and happily.

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