Saturday, July 14, 2007

Second Life Syndrome

In the old days, before 60 was the new 40, it was called a midlife crisis. Now, as we learnt last week, it’s called “second life syndrome”. And should I warn you, like ageing rockers opening trout farms or making organic cheddar, it’s becoming almost compulsory.

The old pattern of long-term cohabitation – meet someone, move in, raise children, retire – no longer applies. About 145,000 couples divorce every year, compared to just 27,000 in 1961. This headline figure, by the way, does not include the number of unrecorded separations among those who never married. So lots of the second lifers will find themselves in what William Higham, founder of the Next Big Thing trend forecasting organisation, calls “dad pads”, which sound like they should have wings and extra absorbency but are, in fact, the probably grim flats lived in by fathers after the forced sale of the marital home. Nice.

The second reason is the ageing population. A third of the UK population is over 50, but that is set to rise to half the population, or 30m people, by 2025. Half of us over 50. And no pension to speak of, because we’re either self-employed in our groovy creative jobs or because Gordon pinched it. No wonder we will all be carrying on working, working, working till we keel over in harness and why we need new careers until our children can finally get their hands on our houses.

So while it may sound as if the world is our oyster, and life is replete with endless thrilling possibilities that we should grab with both hands, while we still can, what second life syndrome really tells us is this: you’re never too old to have a midlife crisis, to change career direction, to retrain, to rejoin the workforce after children. The number of oversixties working is set to double by 2020.

In the future, I reckon, we will always be both too young and too poor to retire.

Edited for E.A. full copy here >>

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