We're All Pioneers

change longevity Nov 09, 2023

In the early 1800s, Lewis & Clark were deployed to explore the newly acquired western portion of the United States after the Louisiana Purchase. They were true pioneers: they explored unchartered territory and encountered many challenges, including harsh weather conditions, rough terrain, and hostile encounters with Native American tribes. In the end, they overcame these obstacles, made their way to the Pacific Ocean, and created a map of how to get there.

In the Age of Longevity, we’re all pioneers. For most of the history of mankind, you were fortunate to live to 30. 50% of kids born today in developed countries are expected to live to at least 100. We’re entering unchartered territory and to make the most of our longer lives, we need to figure it out as we go along, much like Lewis & Clark.


Living beyond age 30 is a relatively recent phenomenon and our society is still adjusting to this new long life reality (Source: Human Progress)


Longevity is One Thing; Healthy Longevity is Another

Living long is a gift of modernity, largely through advances in science, technology, and health practices. However, a long life without commensurate health and wealth may not be desirable. At a recent conference, a speaker asked those who wish to live to 100 to stand up. About ¾ of the room stood. He asked those standing to remain standing if they wished to live to 100 regardless of the quality of the life. Not surprisingly, everyone sat down.

Healthy longevity – living a long, healthy, purposeful, socially connected, financially secure life – just doesn’t happen. Luck plays a role, but careful planning plays a significant one, too. The challenge is that with a longer life comes substantial complexity and uncertainty.


"Squaring the Curve" refers to the desire and opportunity to not have the quality of life diminish as we age (Source: Kennedy Financial Services)


The Complexity of Longevity

In some respects, maybe Lewis & Clark had life easy by comparison. Not to make light of their dangerous encounters and various uncertainties, but in today’s world we face so many challenging personal questions, like: how will my health be over a long life? Will I have enough financial resources? What will be the state of my key relationships and friends over time? How will I find a sense of purpose for each stage of life? There are also important global questions, like: how will climate change impact the world? Will our political systems be able to survive such rapid change? Will regional conflicts escalate to global ones?

The complexity can be overwhelming. Yet, our only option is to forge ahead and endeavor to find ways to wade through the complexity, especially by focusing on elements that we control.


Convenient parks to gather among friends can be a key element in finding your right place (Photo by Robert Bye on Unsplash)  


Discerning What Matters: Start with Place

One of the decisions that has an outsized impact on our life is place: where we live and how we choose to show up where we live. Place is best to meet our physical, emotional, and psychological needs – the key underpinnings that help make a place a “home” – but it so much more. It is foundational for creating a sense of purpose, cultivating our social connections, fostering physical well-being, and providing financial security. Ultimately, it is foundational for healthy longevity.

The “blue zone” concept has been around for nearly 20 years, but it has become more popularized with the recent Netflix show, Live to 100: The Secrets of the Blue Zones. In their view, “if you want to lose weight or live longer, don’t try to change your behavior, change your environment.” Choosing your right place is one way to successfully manage through the complexities of a longer life.


Channeling Your Inner Lewis & Clark to be a Successful Pioneer

No one said being a pioneer was easy, but for Lewis & Clark it was worth it. There are lessons from their journey that we can incorporate in our longevity journey. First, expect challenges and channel the courage and resilience to overcome them. Second, it is easier to overcome challenges as part of a team. Lewis served as the leader and primary navigator while Clark was his co-captain and mapmaker. Successful aging is a team sport. Who is part of your A-Team? Third, embrace a growth mindset. Seeing the next challenge as a growth opportunity will help you make the most of each chapter in life.

When you next see reference to Lewis & Clark, don’t just see them as an inspirational story for their times. View them as role models for what it takes to thrive in the Age of Longevity.


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