Will Today’s 30-50 Year Olds Live as Long as Their Grandparents?

It was just a random passing comment but it gave me great pause. “I don’t think modern generations will live as long as those of us reaching our 90s and 100s today,” said my mom, upon hearing about my daughter’s hectic first week back at work after a six-month maternity leave, and knowing the horrendous schedule another daughter was maneuvering with her eight-month-old baby. “They will wear out from the stress.”

So not only the stress and conflicted feelings—but the joys and immense satisfaction come full cycle in this marvelous circle we call family.

She was also thinking of my long years of combining working and mothering. When I went back to work three months after our first born, in the beginning I worked 16 hours a week and eventually got up to 32 hours. I now work about 36 hours a week at the office. (Even without children at home, I love having some wiggle room in my schedule, and then there’s the part time job I can do from home averaging another 8 hours a week.) I don’t know how some women work jobs where they have to stand all day and then come home to a busy evening at home.

Mom recalled, “Sure, we worked hard on the farm but I never had to work outside of the home.” Mom had gone to business school and worked as a secretary before she got married. She went on, “Plus I had Grandpa and Grandma right there,” who lived in our home in attached quarters most of my years. They were kind of on call 24 hours a day if needed in emergency.

I will frame the question another way. Will today’s boomers, who right now are predicted to cause a bulge in the population needing medical and nursing care for the next 30 years, hold out that long? Or will we die off in our 70s and 80s because we have been certainly, a driven and stressed generation. If so, the ever growing life expectancy will shrink back a bit.

Medically, I’m sure many would quickly counter that my generation expects to push well into their 9 th and 10 th decades, citing the advances in medicine and lifesaving interventions, and more emphasis on fitness, nutrition, and self-care.

Another great one-liner related to stress came from my mother as my two sisters and I (two of us live at a distance) were taking turns traveling in to help her out after she had surgery in May. One of Mom’s friends commented how nice it was to have adult children helping out.

Mother gently protested, “I’m afraid I’m running them ragged …”

The friend countered, “Well, they probably used to run you ragged. ”

Bingo. Big time.

Payback. So much of life is a circle. Babies who need diapering and a steadying hand while learning to walk end up as elderly family members who need diapering and a steadying arm. This is not my mother’s situation but you get what I’m saying.

My daughters who are now raising babies currently learning to crawl (or scoot backwards, as the case may be) have offered me the most generous payback of another sort. “Now I understand the exhaustion, the struggle to get anything done besides childcare, the conflicted feelings,” said one. She talked about being glad to go to an outside job while acutely missing the little one—and the frustration of desperately shuttling home on a congested commuter-clogged highway and metro/bus system that has one failure after another—to get to her childcare provider.

I’m happy that they can now understand my own conflicted journey combining parenting and employment.

So not only the stress and conflicted feelings—but the joys and immense satisfaction come full cycle in this marvelous circle we call family.

So will my daughters wear out? Good Lord I hope not, and I mean that as a fervent prayer. Did I wear out? Yes, but yearly vacations, extended maternity leaves, a few great trips, and every day respites replenished my soul and still do. I wish for all the current generation the same (or even better) balance.

No matter what age or phase of life you’re in, prayer and meditation can help in dealing with stress. For a free booklet, “Squeezing Prayer into a Busy Life,” write to Another Way, 1251 Virginia Avenue, Harrisonburg, VA 22802 or email

Posted 7/24/2014 7:00:00 AM

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