What Happens When We All Live to Be 100?

What would happen if everyone lived to be 100? More and more people are raising that question. Of course, it raises a number of other related questions -- all about retirement, jobs, health, even including death.

All my life I've deeply appreciated men and women who, in their own wonderful way, stayed wide open to what is new, hopeful, challenging, even controversial, into their 80s or 90s or even past the century mark.

I say "thank you" to my wonderful grandmother who resolutely stayed involved in action and ideas. A sense of humor was a touchstone of her experience. Her life story meant it was necessary for her to continue working into her old age. She always delivered with gusto. It was a great treat to be around her. I remember watching from a window one day when she was departing for work. She wore a hat and gloves, as did many women of her age. I beheld her determination, which was striking. She was deeply involved in her work. She cared about details. She definitely welcomed involvement with others. Indeed, she respected them.

In my youth I was also acquainted with Tom. He was old in years, honest, trustworthy, an incredible role model. I learned so much from him. He taught me how to listen to others, how to appreciate them and welcome their contributions of wisdom without pretense or heavy handedness. Tom was at peace with the world. This was his great gift. Tom was never too busy to stop and help me, the kid who was engaged in his first job and thought he knew the answers to everything, but didn't.

Over the years, I've noticed that a lot of people experience life as fleeting or somewhat out of control. They ask: why isn't it as much fun as it used to be? Sometimes they push the clock or calendar as far back as they can -- even to childhood. They come to view the years as a long, burdensome experience offering virtually no creative challenge. A basic question seems to be: Do I want to live an active life until I'm old? Maybe 70 or 80? (Maybe 100?)

Are there any specific earmarks of successful aging? Yes, of course. One is the capacity to forgive, to not sit in judgment. A sense of humor? Yes! People such as my grandma and my workmate, Tom, experienced life willingly. They were ageless.

Many people, sadly, seem to exist by the motto "Here today, gone tomorrow." This blunts life's edge. Let me suggest instead: "Here today, better tomorrow."