Humana CEO Bruce Broussard and his father.

My Father, the Trendsetter

Bruce BroussardIn a series of LinkedIn Influencer blog posts, Humana President and CEO Bruce Broussard shares insights and ideas about the future of health care and discusses the importance of working together to improve the health-care system as well as our own health and well-being. His latest — My Father, the Trendsetter — is reprinted below. To see all of his blog posts, click here.

Throughout every phase of our lives, we are looking to find purpose. It can be through faith, family or work. We challenge ourselves to find and strive toward this purpose, to get the most out of life every day. In a sense, we’re trying to do everything we can to extend our lives.

Yet are these efforts paying off for people?

The research is mixed. According to a recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “those aged 55 to 64—the core of the boomers—are living longer than their predecessors did 10 years ago.” Yet these people “aren’t necessarily living healthier lives.”

The retirement of the baby-boom generation is going to have a significant impact on our country. By the year 2030, 18 percent of our country’s population will be age 65 or older.

When I think about the challenges we face when it comes to helping baby boomers and others age gracefully, I’m reminded of a man who is changing the way I view the aging process – my father.

My Father, the Trendsetter

Not too long ago, my 75-year-old dad retired from AT&T/Lucent, where he had worked as a network engineer for nearly 35 years. My dad is the type of person who needs to stay busy and be challenged, so adjusting to retirement was difficult.

He has now gone back to work for an outsourcing company for Lucent as a part-time engineer, supporting the phone switches he installed throughout his career. In the past, my dad had to go into these large buildings to work on the switches he installed 30-plus years ago. Today, things are different. His laptop computer is his primary tool. He just turns on his computer and works on these switches from the comfort of his own home on a part-time basis.

My dad did not go back to work for the money; he went back because he wanted to be challenged. If my dad were to have retired with no structure — and no purpose — I don’t know if he would be alive today.

My dad has a great life. He is a healthy, active person who walks his dog between work calls and goes camping. Like many people his age, he’s focused on living and enjoying life. He views aging as something that’s going to happen, but he’s going to live his life regardless.

Yet my father’s situation also reflects what’s happening in the workforce today.

A “New” Workforce

Laura Carstensen, the founding director of the Stanford Center on Longevity, recently authored a Wall Street Journal column titled “Forget Old Age, It’s Time to Live Long and (Really) Prosper.”

In her column, which focused on how we can add life to the years we’re living, Carstensen pointed out that “the real problem is that our lives are still led according to the norms and social scripts that guided our grandparents.”

When you think about my father and millions of others like him today, they are not abiding by the conventional norm. They’re approaching life, and work, in a different manner. Yet we still view this as unique. Carstensen raises an intriguing point about the future we are headed toward 30 years from today:

Every fundamental aspect of our lives will change, and none more so than work. We will work many more years but fewer days in a week — reaping cognitive, social and physical benefits in addition to financial gains. Rather than raising children at the peak of our careers, we’ll cycle in and out of full-time and part-time work, allowing parents — finally — to achieve a work-life balance.

Carstensen also points out that “workforces will be more age-diverse than ever before, and the glimmers from research on mixed-age work teams indicate they outperform all others.”

People over the age of 65, like my father, are also going to benefit from advances in medicine, thus enabling them to live longer, healthier, more enjoyable lives. Healthy seniors like my father will play a critical role in the “mixed-age” work teams because of the experience they will bring to the office.

In an insightful piece from Bloomberg News, Chip Espinoza, director of organization psychology at Concordia University Irvine, states that “in the next 10 to 15 years, we’re going to have the greatest transfer of knowledge that’s ever taken place.”

The same article quotes Vikram Ravinder, a Deloitte senior consultant, who states that “Millennials bring data and analytics, but boomers have experience they can rely on when data isn’t sufficient.”

The Sharing Economy

As people like my father age, they still have the ability to work and bring their experience to the workforce.

In the sharing economy — which is defined as peer-to-peer-based sharing of access to goods and services, coordinated through community-based online services — people can come in and out of the workforce. According to one analysis, the global sharing economy is “currently valued at $15 billion, and that number is expected to grow to a colossal $335 billion by 2025.”

Thanks to technology, people like my father don’t have to go back to campus to go back to school. They can learn from afar. This flexibility will continue to increase because access to retraining will only become easier.

There are no restrictions in the sharing economy. It can be the Uber driver who recently gave me a ride who works four hours a day one day, six hours the next, depending on his class schedule. Or a retired senior who worked in the energy field who is helping the next generation solve the energy challenges of tomorrow.

When you have this type of flexibility for seniors, who have the power to enter and re-enter the workforce, and for millennials, who can change careers with greater ease thanks to advances in remote learning, you are creating an environment where people can pursue their passions with 20th century restrictions left in the dust.

The Path Forward

Carstensen said it best: “Matching the speed and flexibility of youth with the experience and stability of age will make work more enjoyable and profitable in the age of longevity.”

While my father is a few years older than the baby-boom generation, his spirit of challenging conventional norms is truly reflective of the boomers.

Today, the oldest baby boomers have begun to turn 70. They strive toward a purpose, and they’re not going to pursue retirement in the conventional fashion.

Thanks to the emergence of the sharing economy, boomers and others have significant opportunities to live life on their terms. When you mix the combined power of youth and experience, you can change industries.

But the move toward the sharing economy goes beyond the workforce. It’s about enabling people to live on their terms, which will lead to a more fulfilling life. When you’re more engaged in your purpose, you have stronger well-being.

And it just might lead to a healthier world in the process. Thanks, Dad.

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