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November 2016
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Living Longer in a Rapidly Changing World, and Economy

by Chris Askin
President and CEO
Community Foundation of Western Nevada

Community Giving

Chris Askin
Chris Askin

Last week I attended an Innovation Conference in San Francisco and one presentation was by a MIT researcher who said that it has been statistically proven that someone born this year will live to be 130 years old. During the same presentation he predicted that we'll see a rapid transition towards selfdriving cars, mostly likely led by trucks, and that in just 10 years it will be common to see driverless trucks on the highway.

I saw a show last week that said that we have only begun to explore the bottom of our oceans and that many new discoveries will be made shortly. Due to the pressure human exploration has been very limited, but new robots being developed will be able to stay down for extended periods of time, greatly accelerating what we can learn.

When we read Jules Verne it seemed like things were going to change faster than they actually did and predictions of flying cars and living on the moon seemed farther off than ever, but with the advent of computers the new technological revolution is clearly now underway. For older adults, having access to selfdriving cars and to revolutionary medical advances will extend quality of life in ways we had only dreamed about.

These new times are called the information age or the digital age, and is characterized by a shift from traditional industry that the Industrial Revolution brought through industrialization, to an economy based on information computerization. Just as the Industrial Revolution resulted in a rapid change with more than 50 percent of the jobs permanently going away, this new change will have the same significance in the job market. The MIT researcher reminded us all that with the loss of jobs, more new jobs were created than ever, resulting in great prosperity across America. There was great fear of the change but in the end the results were incredible, lifting up the quality of life for people throughout the country. While our young people will adapt to these changes more easily than many of us, there is new opportunity for older Americans as well.

There are more opportunities now to become engaged in the community, and not just as a volunteer. I recently learned a new term; the "Gig Economy", which is defined as an environment in which temporary positions are common and organizations contract with independent workers for shortterm engagements.

We can already see that happening with Uber drivers and many companies that prefer to hire workers this way because it reduces the cost of benefits and makes no longterm commitment, and many workers prefer this because they have more flexibility in their schedules.

For older people, there are some incredible advantages to work in the Gig Economy. Although many of the parttime and temporary jobs available through this don't provide benefits, many of them do pay a higher hourly rate because the job is contracted out rather than being hired as an employee. The downside for younger workers is that the jobs don't provide medical and aren't always a reliable source of income, but for older people who have Social Security and Medicare, it is a perfect way to become more engaged in the community, keep the mind active, and to earn some extra income.

In our local economy we are seeing the Gig Economy in action with many of these jobs opening up. In addition to jobs like Lyft drivers there are jobs that require the experience and compassion older adults can offer, such as being a home caregiver. All you need to do is call an employment agency to find out how rapidly these jobs are developing. They're everywhere! As we are living longer than ever, and because being engaged in the community can make life more meaningful and rewarding, this new era may be just what the doctor ordered.

We are fortunate enough to live in a most beautiful place and to have unprecedented opportunities with new companies and a rapidly growing economy. Although we may be distressed by what is happening politically, there is great reason for optimism.

At the Community Foundation of Western Nevada we experience joy daily through impactful community engagement and charitable giving. We work with people just like you who are engaged in meaningful pursuits, building new friendships, learning, and thriving.

If you'd like to get engaged in a productive way to make a positive difference, please give us a call. And, plan to stick around as long as you can… you ain't seen nothing yet!

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