SOCIAL ACTIVITY ACCOUNTS
For years, the only op-ed conservative voice I’ve enjoyed has been William Safire’s at the New York Times, and this is despite the fact that I disagree with many of his positions. So, I took note of the columnist’s four-piece departure in the Paper of Record this past Monday and recommend, while it’s still free, this final column and thoughtful discussion of the need for perpetual personal change.
Combine those two bits of counsel – never retire, but plan to change your career to keep your synapses snapping – and you can see the path I’m now taking. Readers, too, may want to think about a longevity strategy.
We’re all living longer. In the past century, life expectancy for Americans has risen from 47 to 77. With cures for cancer, heart disease and stroke on the way, with genetic engineering, stem cell regeneration and organ transplants a certainty, the boomer generation will be averting illness, patching itself up and pushing well past the biblical limits of “threescore and ten.”
But to what purpose? If the body sticks around while the brain wanders off, a longer lifetime becomes a burden on self and society. Extending the life of the body gains most meaning when we preserve the life of the mind….
In this inaugural winter of 2005, the government in Washington is dividing with partisan zeal over the need or the way to protect today’s 20-somethings’ Social Security accounts in 2040. Sooner or later, we’ll bite that bullet; personal economic security is freedom from fear.
But how many of us are planning now for our social activity accounts? Intellectual renewal is not a vast new government program, and to secure continuing social interaction deepens no deficit. By laying the basis for future activities in the midst of current careers, we reject stultifying retirement and seize the opportunity for an exhilarating second wind.
Medical and genetic science will surely stretch our life spans. Neuroscience will just as certainly make possible the mental agility of the aging. Nobody should fail to capitalize on the physical and mental gifts to come.
When you’re through changing, learning, working to stay involved – only then are you through. “Never retire.”