This is a message for seniors. It is also a message for those of you who have senior grandparents, senior parents, senior aunts and uncles. Because guess what? Someday, faster than you think, you’re going to become a senior, too.
The good news about seniors is, we are living longer than any generation before us. Listen to this data. The average life expectancy of an American has doubled since 1900. A senior woman who reaches 65 years old has an average a life expectancy of 87. A senior man reaching 65 years of age will have an average life expectancy of 85 years. So we have seniors living longer, and yet we hear all the doomsayers say that people living long is somehow bad news. They say it is going to strangle the economy. They say that social security will run out of money soon and that taking care of older Americans is going to be a problem.
I am going to suggest to you that this kind of thinking is WRONG! I am a senior. I am 68 years old. And I am better today than I was at 58, at 48, at 38 and at 28. You know why? Because I am still engaged and productive. I work every single day.
But let me speak to you seniors out there. I don’t want you seniors going down to Orlando to The Villages and spending the rest of your life playing croquet. You are more likely to die quicker than others. I find my happiest and most fulfilled senior friends are the people who are the most active. They are engaged in their businesses and their communities. They are all doing something productive with their lives, rather than play croquet or golf or tennis or swim, or whatever it may be. They are the ones who are healthier and are living longer, more productive lives.
I’ve had a friend of mine that called me a few weeks ago. He’s a guy I was in business with back in the 60s. And as we talked I noticed that he sounded vibrant and full of enthusiasm, talking about business and this and that. After we hung up, his 40-something year old son called me, and I said to him, “How old is your dad?” He said, “My dad is 84 years old.” Eighty-four years old! He is a testament to staying engaged. He is as involved with that business today as he was when he was in his 40s and 50s and 60s. He is healthy, he is active, his mind is fresh, and he gives us invaluable input and the value of his experience. He helps us be so much better.
We have football coaches today, be it Bobby Bowden or Joe Paterno, who are still coaching football in their 80s. There is no reason to get to your senior years and quit. What do you have to live for? I want to be able to get up in the morning looking forward to helping somebody else in their life, to bringing value to somebody else. Does the work have to be for commerce? No, it can be for charity, for your community, but find something that you love to do. And when you have that in your heart and soul, in the business world, in the public service world, in working with charities or other people, it gives you a reason to live. And living is what we have to do. It is not just sitting in a rocking chair and waiting for the gavel to fall. Be productive. Add something to this economy. Add something to this nation. Add something to your community. Add something to your children’s lives, to your grandchildren’s lives.
And you children and grandchildren who are listening to this or reading this, go to your parents and grandparents, and encourage them to stay engaged.