In an age of longevity, Professor Andrew Scott wants us to not only live long, but prosper as well.
In a recent exclusive Opus by Prudential client event, Scott revealed exciting insights, based on his latest co-authored book, The 100-Year Life. Here are his key takeaways on optimising the years ahead.
The fact is, more of us are already expected to live to 100 years of age. On average, global life expectancy is increasing linearly by two to three years every decade: according to Scott, “That means every generation is living about nine years longer than the previous one.” The Human Mortality Database reveals that in many of the world’s developed nations today, half of all babies born in 2007 are expected to live past 100.
“Longevity is a great achievement,” says Scott. Yet, negative stereotypes cast a gloomy outlook on ageing. Moreover, falling birth rates put more pressure on caretaker generations. Here in Singapore, for example, the current birth rate is 1.14 children per woman. Scott asserts, “The social narrative on ageing needs to be changed.”
Thanks to improvements in nutrition and medicine, scientists have introduced the term ‘best-practice life expectancy’: the increasing duration of life means both enhanced quantity and quality of our years. To frame our perspective on ageing, Scott suggests that we ask ourselves: “What am I going to do with all this time?”.
We must distinguish between chronological age and biological age, advises Scott. “People in their 70s today are as healthy as those in their 60s. Our age and lifestyle isn’t determined by the number of candles on each birthday cake,” he says.
With an estimated 100,000 extra productive hours, Scott asserts that we need to re-evaluate our lives, careers and even our family and legacy structures. Planning ahead is critical — not just to make the most of our time, but to have the resources to live the life we want.
According to Scott, the current three-stage life plan — education, work and retirement — will no longer work. As age becomes more malleable, some people might consider pursuing new careers later in life, while others might delay marriage. More will be leaving a legacy for a four-generation household — an increasingly common circumstance.
As for wider economic implications, Scott shares that key investment opportunities will lie in the ‘silver economy’ and age-supportive technology. Opportunities also abound in life sciences where researchers are finding ways to ‘reverse ageing’, as well as adult education and leisure.
Tangible assets include our savings, property and pensions. “Become more flexible rather than definitive with your planning,” he advises. “As we get stretched in different ways, there are more options now with fewer norms to guide us.”
But as the saying goes, money can’t buy happiness. Your intangible assets are just as vital to a happy life, says Scott. These are our productivity, vitality and transformation assets. Productivity assets include the knowledge and skills that keep you relevant and able to contribute to society. Vitality assets include your health, relationships and lifestyle. Finally, your transformation assets measure your adaptability to change. “With a longer life, you need to keep looking for change and adapting, or you will get very bored,” says Scott.
The most important factors for a fruitful and contented life? Optimism and relationships, Scott answers. A renowned long-term study by Harvard researchers found that quality relationships significantly affect our emotional and physical well-being — so maintaining human connection could be the most important investment you can make.
Personally, Scott admits that he’s working on improving his relationships with his children. He’s also taking better care of his health, having recently begun physiotherapy treatment to treat a chronic sports injury.
His final piece of advice? “If you want to be forward-looking, there’s got to be motivation for the future.”
Andrew Scott is the Professor of Economics at London Business School and has previously held positions at Harvard University and London School of Economics; he has also served on advisory boards of corporates, financial institutions and governments. Scott’s research has been featured in leading academic publications; his own titles are widely acclaimed.