“The New Long Life: A Framework for Flourishing in a Changing World”
Andrew Scott & Lynda Gratton
In their new book, “The New Long Life: A Framework for Flourishing in a Changing World”, authors Andrew Scott and Lynda Gratton provide a thought provoking look at new life courses where each phase has been altered by increases in longevity, medical advances and rapidly changing technology.
Scott and Gratton offer a new framework for transitioning from a traditional three-stage life consisting of education, work and retirement to a multi-stage life that will include multiple periods of employment, education and leisure. They introduce us to a number different personas — fictional characters of different ages, living in different parts of the world — and through them highlight the very tangible issues and opportunities presented as we navigate these new longer multi-stage lives. Their “everybodies” include Hiroki and Madoka, a young mid-twenties Japanese couple who are looking at a new way to navigate their careers, marriage and child-rearing that differs from their parents expectations. There is Tom, a 40-year old truck driver from Texas wondering about the impact of autonomous vehicles, and Ying, a 55-year old divorced accountant in Australia, who has just lost her job because her work is being automated, but feels the need to continue to work for financial reasons, and because she feels she has many more years of productivity ahead of her.
Through their “everybodies”, Scott and Gratton make a “fuzzy” concept, very real. They map out in a practical and thoughtful way, different pathways that take into account changing norms and opportunities, a future where education doesn’t end in the early 20’s, career trajectories that are more circuitous, and where the definition of “retirement” is changing. Scott and Gratton don’t shy away from pointing out some of the immense challenges that individuals and societies face as we transition to this new life course. For instance, they’re very clear about the need to overcome the negative stereotypes often associated with older workers, and challenge business to reassess the value of older workers. Likewise, they acknowledge that individuals themselves will increasingly need to think ahead and be responsible for “creating their own narrative that provides meaning”. They emphasize that we all need to be aware of our “platform” which is comprised of current abilities, health, educational attainment, financial circumstances and personal relationships, and networks which are impacted by past decisions, and which will shape future opportunities.
Scott and Gratton add to the effort to make this new life course more tangible by suggesting exercises to help individuals envision what their new multi-stage life might look like, and by providing proposals for corporations and governments on how to respond to this rapidly changing reality. In “The New Long Life: A Framework for Flourishing in a Changing World”, Scott and Gratton take what appears to be a very daunting series of changes and presents them in a very approachable and achievable way.
Recognizing that “The New Long Life: A Framework for Flourishing in a Changing World” was written prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, I reached out to Andrew Scott to find out how he feels the pandemic has impacted the changes outlined in the book. His (edited) response follows.
(Andrew Scott edited response)
COVID-19 is an accelerant and a stress test. An accelerant in that it advanced working remotely, the use of technology, it has provided a different view of work-life balance and has in no small part been about how we cope with increasingly aging societies. In the book, we talk a lot about continuous learning, new methods of learning and building greater resilience and COVID has accelerated those changes as well. We also talk about the advantages and challenges of a different work life balance which is more blended and more variable and where relationships in the home and locality become more important than work, and the pandemic has proven out some of those theories.
And it has been a stress test in how it has revealed which individuals and countries are well placed to cope. Regarding aging societies, the US and UK clearly haven’t done well if you look at care/nursing homes and mortality statistics but in general I would say that changing narratives and awareness about older people and age has started during this process and whilst we still have a long way to go the progress has been positive (despite revealing problems and needs).
Around tech I worry more. I do think we are likely to see a shift to more flexible modes of work but I also think that remote working will lead to a lot more outsourcing of jobs and use of automation as a cost cutting exercise and tech should not be about cost cutting but augmenting worker productivity.
This article was recommended by Martha Deevy, Senior Research Scholar and Associate Director of Stanford Center on Longevity.