The developed world is experiencing a Longevity Revolution. We are living 34 years longer than our great-grandparents.
With a longer life span, the stages of life are radically changing. Essentially an entire second adult lifetime has been added to our lifespan.
In the developed world, life is now being viewed as having three 30-year acts.
The First Act (0-29 years old)
For many years, the ages of 0-20 were defined as the youth life stage.
Recently, a new life stage has been identified for young people, with the decade of 20-30 years now being labeled as “emerging adulthood”. This group of 20-somethings generally do not embrace the conventions of adult life until their 30s.
Adulthood has historically been marked by five traditional milestones – completing school, leaving home, becoming financially independent, marrying and having a child. In particular, getting married and having a child is now happening later than ever, if ever, and often when someone in their 30s.
With the development of this life stage, the traditional adult life stage is now considered to begin at age 30.
The Second Act (30-59 years old)
Then there are two 30-year chapters in your adult life.
In the second act, the next 30 years, men and women generally pursue their major career direction and often raise a family – and then turn 60.
The Third Act (60-90 years old)
For an adult who reaches 60, health care advances have resulted in a high probability of living to 90, especially for women.
So, as you turn 60, you literally have ½ of your adult lifetime still in front of you.
For women, turning 60 is often more significant than it is for men. For some women, it’s the point in time that we have finally launched our children into the first chapter of adult life – and we discover that we have more time and more control of our lives. Other women discover that they must reconfigure their families and assume obligations for caring for both younger and older generations. Retirement is not an option for everyone.
With the leading edge of the Baby Boom now turning 68 and the last of them turning 50, they are quickly moving into the Third Act and reinventing how they will live the second half of their adult lifetimes. They have a lot of runway in front of them, which has a major impact on how they live, how they think and how they make purchases. They are rewiring, not retiring.
For some women, they are renovating their homes or buying and moving into new homes that are designed for this chapter of life – and they are definitely not moving to the retirement village, where the average age of entry is now often in the 80s.
For other women, they are adjusting to the new family structures, adjusting to a lifelong commitment to working and a revised standard of living. The retirement village may be an unaffordable dream.
Decision-making is dramatically influenced by the perceived time horizon for impact. With ½ their adult life in front of them, Boomers are generally still spending and investing in their homes, and, with control of 70% of the disposable income, they have the money to do it. Others are recognizing that they have not saved enough to retire, possibly ever, and are working to support their reconfigured families and adjusting their plans for what used to be called the Golden Years.
Very importantly, women in particular have a different perspective as they enter this Third Act. A woman is happier than in her earlier years and has a greater sense of well-being. – And she recoils at being called a “senior”. She is not declining into decrepitude. She is climbing a staircase toward new goals.
These Boomers also interact very differently with younger generations. Our AIMsights research confirms that approximately 2/3 of the Boomers embrace the opportunity to learn from younger generations, especially from the technology-savvy millennials. They are responding to the new imperative for lifelong learning and the faster pace of change. Approximately 1/3 of the Boomers are resisting these changes and especially resent the millennials, characterizing them as lazy, narcissistic and clueless – and hopelessly tied to their technology screens. The millennials embrace the 2/3 of Boomers who are responding positively to change and opportunity, with frequent communication and influence flowing in both generational directions.
Successful marketing to consumers no longer depends on targeting a single generation or demographic. Smart marketing now addresses the entire ecosystem of influence, appealing across multiple generations, encouraging storytelling and sharing.
In the Third Act, consumers, especially women, are changing how they see the world and how the world sees them.
Embrace the possibilities!!
Marsha Everton is a recent entrant to the Third Act. She enjoys the constant flow of intergenerational learning, especially with her three Millennial children — and is determined to make a difference with the second half of her adult life.