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20% of elderly Americans are either employed or looking for work. Here's why.
Two new reports highlight the stark realities of the modern workforce.
- For the first time, over 20 percent of senior citizens are working or looking for employment.
- By contrast, over half of millennials believe they will be millionaires despite contradictory evidence.
- Regardless of age, the question remains: Is work meaningful when the main goal is a paycheck?
A 2017 study on nursing home populations found four key experiences most prevalent for deriving meaning in life:
- Physical and mental well-being
- Belonging and recognition
- Personally treasured activities
- Spiritual closeness and connectedness
Money is nowhere on this list — odd, given how much weight we assign it during the course of life. That's likely the consequence of a competitive market in a world with a serious resource distribution problem. We lose sight of what matters until it's (almost) too late.
There's a deeper question here about the nature of work, which is, of course, fluid. Over the course of my Gen X lifetime, I've watched the expected employment regimen evolve from securing a good job at a dependable company to ensure a pension — my father worked for more than four decades on this path — to the challenging realities of the "gig economy," which I've been involved with for over 15 years as a contractor.
Before returning to meaning, let's look at two new reports that highlight tectonic shifts in the current employment landscape. The data come from the extremes: one set from senior citizens, the other millennials.
In a report compiled by United Income, over 20 percent of Americans aged 65 or over are either employed or looking for work. This represents the highest number to date. Interestingly, over half of these seniors are college-educated, pushing income rates up by 63 percent from 1985. Another boon is health: 78 percent of those employed report being in good health or better.
While there are positive benefits to this — people derive meaning from work at any stage of life; remaining socially active is a driver for good mental and physical health — there is a downside: many Americans cannot afford to retire. In a youth-obsessed culture that makes employment harder to secure as you age, the notion of sending out your resume in your late 60s is a tough pill to swallow.
An interesting survey by TD Ameritrade of millennials age 21–37 highlights how the youngest members of the workforce feel about the future. The statistic receiving the most attention: over half of respondents expect to be millionaires in an era when the chances for that are worse than in previous generations.
The data were skewed heavily male, with 73 percent believing millionaire-status to be in the cards compared to 38 percent of females. Another eye-opening generational change: the average age millennials enter the workforce is 25; males believe their retirement will come at 53, while woman claim 59. That's quite a shift from the surging number of over-65s slinging coffee beans.
Not that all hope is lost. Instead of believing millions will just roll in, 79 percent of male millennials actively save money, alongside 62 percent of women. Thirty-nine percent of this age group is storing money away for an emergency, an especially important trend since 40 percent of Americans cannot cover a $400 emergency. It's good to see the younger generation being proactive with savings.
27-year-old Garston Tremblay, a developer, enjoys a bowl of cereal at his desk while at work at Rally Software Development in Boulder. Image source: Denver Post Photo by Cyrus McCrimmon
These two reports highlight a stark reality about work and income. Societies are fluid; few joining the workforce today expect to be at the same company in five years, much less 50. Yet both age groups, representing opposite ends of the employment spectrum, are in different financial situations than they expected (or expect) to be. Considering that a "rough estimate" of $1–$2 million is needed to "retire fairly comfortably," many Americans will be working as long as possible simply to survive.
As mentioned, money was not among the key attributes for deriving meaning in life. Work can provide meaning; in fact, if you treat your occupation meaningfully, your days will be impactful and potentially transformative. Yet when a career is purely for the financial benefits — or mere survival, as is the case of the over half of Americans earning under $40,000 a year — it's harder (though not by any means impossible) to derive meaning while running in the rat race.
When Abraham Maslow published his "hierarchy of needs" in a 1943 paper, physiological necessities (health) and safety (requiring money) provided the foundation of the pyramid. At the top are love/belonging, esteem, and self-actualization, which aligns with the principles espoused by nursing home residents. It's tragic that it takes many until the end of life to realize this, that we don't have the social safety nets in place for more people to climb the pyramid earlier in life.
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Construction of the $500 billion dollar tech city-state of the future is moving ahead.
- The futuristic megacity Neom is being built in Saudi Arabia.
- The city will be fully automated, leading in health, education and quality of life.
- It will feature an artificial moon, cloud seeding, robotic gladiators and flying taxis.
The Red Sea area where Neom will be built:
Saudi Arabia Plans Futuristic City, "Neom" (Full Promotional Video)<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="c646d528d230c1bf66c75422bc4ccf6f"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/N53DzL3_BHA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
Are we genetically inclined for superstition or just fearful of the truth?
- From secret societies to faked moon landings, one thing that humanity seems to have an endless supply of is conspiracy theories. In this compilation, physicist Michio Kaku, science communicator Bill Nye, psychologist Sarah Rose Cavanagh, skeptic Michael Shermer, and actor and playwright John Cameron Mitchell consider the nature of truth and why some groups believe the things they do.
- "I think there's a gene for superstition, a gene for hearsay, a gene for magic, a gene for magical thinking," argues Kaku. The theoretical physicist says that science goes against "natural thinking," and that the superstition gene persists because, one out of ten times, it actually worked and saved us.
- Other theories shared include the idea of cognitive dissonance, the dangerous power of fear to inhibit critical thinking, and Hollywood's romanticization of conspiracies. Because conspiracy theories are so diverse and multifaceted, combating them has not been an easy task for science.
A growing body of research suggests COVID-19 can cause serious neurological problems.
- The new study seeks to track the health of 50,000 people who have tested positive for COVID-19.
- The study aims to explore whether the disease causes cognitive impairment and other conditions.
- Recent research suggests that COVID-19 can, directly or indirectly, cause brain dysfunction, strokes, nerve damage and other neurological problems.
Brain images of a patient with acute demyelinating encephalomyelitis.
COVID-19 and the brain<p>A growing body of research reveals alarming neurological complications among COVID-19 patients. On Wednesday, for example, researchers from University College London published a <a href="https://academic.oup.com/brain/article/doi/10.1093/brain/awaa240/5868408" target="_blank">study</a> in the journal Brain that describes how some patients have suffered temporary brain dysfunction, strokes, nerve damage, and other neurological problems concurrent with COVID-19.</p><p>Some patients suffered brain inflammation as a result of a rare disease called acute disseminated encephalomyelitis, which can cause numbness, seizures, and confusion. One patient in the study even hallucinated monkeys and lions in her home.</p>
Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images<p>A separate study published in the <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7198407/" target="_blank">Journal of Clinical Neuroscience</a> notes that some COVID-19 patients have also suffered neurological complications like impaired consciousness and acute cerebrovascular disease. The study notes that past viruses like MERS and SARS also seemed to cause neurological problems.</p><p>A troubling finding among this growing body of research is that some patients seem to suffer neurological damage even when respiratory symptoms aren't obvious. Additionally, scientists aren't sure whether damage from the disease will be permanent.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Given that the disease has only been around for a matter of months, we might not yet know what long-term damage COVID-19 can cause," Dr. Ross Paterson, joint first author of the University College London study, said in a <a href="https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2020-07/ucl-iid070620.php" target="_blank">press release</a>. "Doctors needs to be aware of possible neurological effects, as early diagnosis can improve patient outcomes."</p><p>If you've been diagnosed with COVID-19 and want to enroll in the study, visit <a href="https://www.cambridgebrainsciences.com/studies/covid-brain-study" target="_blank">cambridgebrainsciences.com/studies/covid-brain-study</a>.</p>
Coronavirus layoffs are a glimpse into our automated future. We need to build better education opportunities now so Americans can find work in the economy of tomorrow.