By Camilla Cavendish
Extra Time, a new book by Camilla Cavendish, a British journalist and the former Director of Policy for Prime Minister David Cameron, illuminates how the shape of our lives is radically changing as lifespans lengthen. In the 21stcentury, “our chronological age is becoming decoupled from our biological capabilities,” Cavendish writes, and “we need…to stop lumping everyone from 60 to 100 together and accept that it’s normal to be vibrant and capable in your 70s” and longer.
Cavendish was motivated to write Extra Time as an antidote to her father’s experience with aging. She writes movingly about how, after he turned 50, he believed everything was “over” for him. He lived until he was 86, but his retirement was marked by depression, isolation and a lack of purpose.
It doesn’t have to be that way and shouldn’t, Cavendish asserts. She tackles an array of topics—everything from Japanese eldercare robots and the surge of entrepreneurism and volunteerism among retirees who don’t want to be idle to the possibilities of future anti-aging drugs. Although the scope of topics covered is sometimes dizzying, Cavendish successfully integrates summaries of current longevity research with lively anecdotes she has gathered in countries around the world. And she highlights how, as more people have a chance to be centenarians, individuals of all ages and institutions must adapt. Some of these adaptations, such as eating healthier and staying active throughout one’s life, are within our control, Cavendish writes. Others, such as rethinking the current career timetable—so that people in their 30s and 40s can slow down when raising young children and those in their 50s and 60s can contribute more – will require new employment and government policies. Inequality will be the biggest challenge, Cavendish asserts. Today’s wealthiest and most educated may live a decade or more longer than the poorest. Overall, though, the book is optimistic that in “extra time” there is everything still to play for. That’s the meaning of the term in soccer and the meaning Cavendish believes can be more possible for many of us.
This article was recommended by Carol Hymowitz, author, journalist and visiting fellow at the Stanford Center on Longevity.