I’m off to Queensland next week to speak at the LASA Q conference for aged care providers. I’ll be talking about the part older workers can play in the sector, looking forward to it.

One of my big themes will be the 30 years that has been added to the life course in the last century, and the impact of this on the traditional life course. I have had some pretty new diagrams done by my clever new web people, so I thought I’d share them with you all.

Here’s how it goes:

The life course used to look like this, with a predictable trajectory up to a high point in midlife then a long slow decline through retirement to a wooden box in the local cemetery. Personal growth was not expected later in life and your world shrank year by year.

trad-curve

When it first became clear that more and more years were being added to the lifespan through the 20th century, the first idea was to add them to retirement (remember the push to early retirement, leisure communities and endless golf/bingo/cruises)? It was a clumsy idea, and makes a clumsy diagram:

30yrbump

Another way of looking at this is to track the major phases of public life – study, work, rest/retirement – and those in your private sphere. In the old days, you studied, then you worked, then you retired – it was a one-way linear progression. And in the rest of life you grew up, dated, married and had a family, aged and then died. All one way, no repeats or twists. It looked like this:

trad-line

These days, though the major elements are much the same, it’s not as linear – we move back and forth through the phases of work and private life, mix them up, leave one out, delay another, revisit some…

new-line

Back to the first diagram, now it looks much more like this next one – where the potential for growth, adventure an achievement continues to rise until well into the 80s and maybe more (research clearly shows age 80 is the average peak for life happiness):

newlifeline

Much more fun, more possibilities and more flexibility to create a life that you actually want to live!

Joanna Maxwell

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