At least for a large proportion of the population: go to school, found and advance your career (often staying in the same organisation for decades), and then settle into retirement in your mid-60s.
But that three-stage view of life is increasingly out of date in a society where a considerable segment of the population is now predicted to live to the age of 100 – and perhaps even further. Longer lifespans mean that our paths are becoming increasingly less linear: rather than simply ‘finishing’ school and working solidly through to our sixties, numerous jobs, multiple stints in education and even mid-life career breaks will become increasingly common. Instead of looking to obsolete models and fearing the fallout of premature retirement, we should be thinking about how best to make the most of the extra time we have. And one of the answers is simpler than you might think.
Ultimately, the key to making the most of a longer life is education. Indeed there’s a good reason health and education are commonly grouped together: the presence of one is often a good indicator of the other. Learning keeps us fit and healthy, and, given we’ll be working longer, it also keeps our skills up to date in an era where knowledge has a shorter and shorter half-life.
In fact, the bond between health and education will only become more significant in the future. Our bed-based healthcare system – developed back in the 1940s at the dawn of the NHS – is still designed primarily to respond to acute diseases and accidents. Whilst of critical importance, that skew doesn’t reflect the often age-related health issues we face nowadays. Illness is changing, and we simply don’t have enough doctors, nurses, and other clinicians to care for all the patients out there. Moving forwards, preventative education – promoting life-long health rather than managing late-term sickness – is a crucial and necessary development for the industry.
Businesses should also play a key role in that education. As the way we work changes, businesses have a greater responsibility than ever to maintain the health of their employees and keep them fit and healthy for the future – wherever it may take them. That has the added bonus of offsetting the demand placed on the government, too.
Learning is the key to longevity and keeping our minds – and bodies – fit, active, and ready for the future.