Summer's Over Already? Why Life Accelerates as We Age

By The Age of Aging Archives
Cover image for  article: Summer's Over Already? Why Life Accelerates as We Age

There it goes. Just like that, summer is over in a snap — once again. Sure, everyone hates to see summer go, but if you're a person of age, it seems as though precious times are now racing by faster than ever before. One has to wonder, is this just perception or is it another reality of the process of aging?

As boomers who grew up during the 1960s and '70s, we can vividly recall school emptying each year to the sounds of Alice Cooper's "School's Out," giving way to the lazy, carefree days of summer. Days felt like weeks and weeks felt like months, almost as if we were living our own version of Hollywood's Endless Summer.

While I was enjoying a seemingly eternal existence, I can remember my father complaining that there weren't enough hours in the day to get everything done. Naturally, I had a youthful disregard for what he was saying back then. Today, I can appreciate his outlook that life accelerates with age. Now that I'm in his shoes, summer feels more like a rushed span of mere weeks between Memorial Day and Labor Day, remembered more for the things we regret not doing rather than for the things we did.

There are many explanations as to why life seems to accelerate as we age, the most popular being mathematical; i.e., the more days you have lived, the less each new day represents as a percentage of your total life. While this is certainly a plausible explanation, the reality is that we lack a scientific explanation for the feeling of the acceleration of life; we just don't know enough about how humans assess time, given that there is no one area of the brain dedicated to time perception. Nonetheless, as it becomes ever more obvious that life accelerates with age and that there's little that can be done to slow it down, how are boomers responding and what can marketers do to help?

Rethinking Carpe Diem

We're all familiar with this Latin aphorism that urges us to seize the day. When boomers were younger, raising families and managing careers, seizing the day usually meant emerging victoriously in some important daily endeavor. Now that they're older and each day is gone in a flash, carpe diem has new meaning: If something that you want is speeding by, why not reach out and grab hold of it?

Many boomers are thinking differently about how to live each day, beginning with a concerted effort to wrest back control. With a sense of control comes a higher degree of emotional preparedness that allows those boomers to set the bar higher than yesterday. Seizing the day is still about accomplishment, but now it's less about daily victories and more about doing things that are meaningful and, therefore, lasting and memorable. In the end, memories persevere longer than the moments do.

Shifting Fast Days to Full Days

As each day seems shorter, boomers are responding in the only way they know how: They're putting more into every day to get more out of life. Ever wonder why older people get up so early in the morning? They'll tell you it's because they can't sleep, but the more plausible explanation is their desire to start earlier and get more done sooner. As people look to age successfully, personal productivity has become an important measure of vitality — the busier, the better. And while busy is good, balance is even better, as being too busy tends to create blur.

Marketers would be wise to focus on products and services that enhance personal productivity, not as a means of offsetting issues associated with age, but to help people get more done and decrease the perception that there's less time to get things done.

Calculating the New Math of Aging: As boomers begin to realize that their quantity of life remaining is decreasing, they offset it with a corresponding increase in their quality of life. In this case, they act as if quality is greater than quantity. When they tell you that they're living the best years of their life, right here and now, they're ignoring quantity of remaining life in favor of their present quality of life.

Irrational or not, this new math suggests that each day of life at age is worth more than those lived earlier and, therefore, the experience of life is actually increasing rather than decreasing. When the physics of aging (life accelerates) meets the math of aging (life improves and, thus, its quality increases with age), everything sort of balances out.

Just when you think you understand boomers, you don't. They continue to invent new ways of rationalizing the realities of aging to create a more positive scenario that fits their optimistic outlook for the future. Marketers need to understand the reality but emphasize the aspiration; problems don't matter when positivity is imperative.

Creating More Than an Endless Summer

As the sun swiftly sets on yet another summer, boomers are hurtling towards what's next. The realization that life seems to be accelerating is concerning, but, ultimately, it's just another challenge of aging that boomers need to overcome — and that marketers can harness as an opportunity to help their customers of age.

Boomers' ambition is to slow down the speed of life without slowing down. Slowing down is what previous generations might have done while retiring, but many boomers believe that the moment you hit the brakes is when you start getting old. So, perhaps an accelerating life is a good thing after all, as it's prompting a newfound zeal for full, active, and productive lives at age. Many younger boomers are still content to live that Endless Summer, while many aging boomers want more. An endless life isn't really possible, but it sure is more pleasant to pretend that it is. Let's go for it!

Photo courtesy of BoomAgers.

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