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What Will It Mean To Be Old Two Decades Into the 21st Century?


The 21st century will revolutionize aging, according to author Reginald Stackhouse. In his new book, The Coming Age Revolution (Warwick Publishing Inc.), Stackhouse writes that the coming storm will radicalize the world’s assumptions about aging. This social revolution will rewrite rules and move boundaries for men and women moving past middle age in the next 20 years.

Reginald Stackhouse is principal emeritus at Wycliffe College, University of Toronto. He has authored nine books, six written since he turned 65.

The 21st century will be a different time to grow older. And, in The Coming Age Revolution, Stackhouse shows how older people are going to stay part of the action in love, work, health, money and power.

On love: “In the coming age revolution, sex will be too important to be left only to the young,” writes Stackhouse. “After all, sexuality does not take early retirement at 55, or late retirement at 75.” And increasing longevity means people are thinking more about what they want to do with their middle and late years. A willingness to end unsatisfactory relationships will result in more older adults cohabitating, as well as remarrying.

On work: Retirement will be voluntary, flexible and partial. By 2026, the number of people working to the number of fully retired people will decrease from five to one to only three to one.

Age myths: “They’re all alike,” “They can’t learn anything new” and “They’re all desexed.” These ageist myths dehumanize older people by forcing men and women into an undifferentiated lump that denies their individuality. But not for much longer, Stackhouse contends: “The coming age revolution will give society an injection of new life.”

But don’t sit around waiting for governments or legislators to get the ball rolling, he warns. This revolution will come from the bottom up, as older people reject current assumptions about age, rethink their role, and decide to live differently. It’s a tall order in a culture that values youth. But, according to Stackhouse, “a revolution can only come when older people refuse to sit on the sidelines and refuse to expect special consideration because of age.”

In a way, his point is expressed in Marcel Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past: “We do not receive wisdom. We must discover it for ourselves after a journey through the wilderness, which no one else can make for us, which no one can spare us, for our wisdom is the point of view from which we come at last to regard the world.”