The developed world is bearing witness to a 21st century miracle – the real possibility of living well to the age of 100 and beyond. Compelling scientific evidence indicates that living long and living well is most realistic for those who adopt healthy behaviors, are financially secure, and are socially engaged.

THE SIGHTLINES PROJECT investigates how well Americans are doing in each of these three areas over historical time. We assessed the number of Americans who are meeting expert recommendations for healthy living, financial security, and social engagement. These results are intended to stir national debate, guide policy development, stimulate entrepreneurial innovation, and encourage personal choices that enhance independent, 100-year lives.

FEATURED

Sightlines Special Report on Social Engagement


Social engagement and connectedness have profound implications for well-being, including a sense of security, self-esteem, physical, mental, and cognitive health, and overall life satisfaction. Research has shown that feeling socially isolated is as great a risk factor for premature death as smoking a half a pack of cigarettes every day. In this report, we review social relationship patterns over the lifespan, discuss how interrupters like social media have influenced the way we connect and highlight the importance of social connectedness on physical and mental health. For researchers interested in this topic, we provide a toolbox of various analytical techniques that have been newly developed in modeling and testing social engagement. In later chapters, we zoom in to examine how important life events such as retirement and widowhood affect people’s social relationships and connecting behaviors.

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Change over historical time in % Americans who are doing well in healthy living, financial security and social engagement across six different age groups; dashed lines represent 5 percentage point change which we classified as significant.

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SPOTLIGHT ON

SHIFTING LIFE

ACROSS AGES

CAREGIVING

MILESTONES

SHINING A LIGHT ON AVENUES TO FINANCIAL SECURITY IN THE AGE OF LONGEVITY

How we are doing as a society after being gifted with an additional 30 plus years of life over the past century? Are we taking full advantage of this gift? Or are we missing the mark, reaching old age ill-prepared and in worse shape than preceding generations?

In 2016, we published our first look at just this question by zooming out to paint a bird’s eye portrait of how well Americans are living in this newfound era of longevity. To do so, we focused on three domains of well-being known to be

the building blocks of not just living longer, but living better: financial security, social engagement, and healthy living. Given the rapid, biologically transformative shifts in aging that developed countries have experienced in a mere 100 years, it was a small wonder to us that we observed many trends moving in the wrong direction. Americans report more sedentary behavior today than in generations past and fewer report being socially connected within their communities compared to 20 years ago. The most prominent downward trends, however, emerged in the domain of financial security. This is not surprising given that at the same time we were witnessing unprecedented shifts in human aging, the U.S. underwent unprecedented financial events. 

In concert, these shifts in U.S. aging and the economy put 20th century born American generations increasingly at risk for being ill-prepared for a lifetime of financial security.

Focusing in on financial outcomes such as buying a home, managing debt, or saving money, we saw major declines in the percentage of Americans taking actions toward a secure financial future. Upon first glance, these downward trends appear…READ MORE

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TAMARA SIMS, PHD
FORMER DIRECTOR OF THE SIGHTLINES PROJECT

The Sightlines Project was made possible by the generous support of the following sponsors:

AARP | Bank of America Merrill Lynch | Fidelity | Finance of America Reverse | JP Morgan Chase & Co. Mercer | Prudential | Society of Actuaries | Target | USAA

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