Sonia Arrison: When we can live longer and healthier lives, there’s the question of what happens to many different areas of our lives. The family is one that’s super important. What happened the last time we doubled human life expectancy? Human life expectancy in 1850 in the United States was 43 years. Today it’s around 80 years. We’ve roughly doubled it already. And so the question is, is well what happened to family life during that time?
And if you look, you can see that the age of first marriage has gone up significantly, the age of first-time mothers has gone up already. I mean, right now, we’re in the era of the 40-year-old mother. And I think that at some point there will be a time when we’re in the era of the 70-year-old mother.
We’re at the point where we’re going to see new life phases coming along. And so a lot of scholars are focused on the idea of retirement right now and how the definition of retirement is changing. Right now, we think of it as a period in time at the end of our lives; where we take time off to relax, go traveling, and that kind of thing.
But I think in a longer lived world, where people can be healthier for longer periods of time and work longer, retirement might be redefined to mean something like large chunks of time that you take out of your life to go get reeducated or even take off time to have children or do something else. Because if you could live to be 150 years old in a relatively healthy state then you might want to have more than one career that requires a lot of education.
And then with longer lives, we might also have other periods of life that, for instance, when we extended our life expectancy, a new phase of life came along called adolescence. And that didn’t used to exist before. We used to go straight from childhood to adulthood, but as we lived longer and healthier this new phase of life came along called adolescence. And now, scholars are starting to see another phase of life which they’re calling adult-lescence. And that’s the time after adolescence, but you’re not quite an adult yet. And as we live longer and longer, we might see new phases of life like that.
Directed / Produced by Elizabeth Rodd and Jonathan Fowler