A century ago, few folks lived past the age of 50. Most reached the milestones of young adulthood — new jobs, marriage or kids — absent their mom, dad or both. Today’s millennials are more likely than not to have both parents as well as living grandparents. This profound shift — the triumph of a century’s work in medicine, public health and technology — is rewarding us in countless ways: a great aunt’s bedtime stories, a grandfather’s passion for model trains, or a master’s skills passed in person to younger generations.
Our increased longevity introduces challenges, too. How can we best support all the living branches of our family tree to make the most of the gift of longer lives? Older people grow more frail with time. They’re more likely to suffer chronic conditions and accidents that could lead to an expensive hospital or nursing home stay. These risks are stressful not just for aging relatives, who want to stay independent, but also for their families, caregivers and doctors. Governments are feeling the financial pressure, too.