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Aging Has Its Perks! How to Embrace Life Year After Year with Carl Honoré (Episode #141)

This week we take a deep dive into our expanding potential in every single decade of the aging process. Our guest, Carl Honoré, is raising eyebrows with his novel insights about aging, with special emphasis on how it improves collaboration in diverse groups, the advantages we are gaining with age, and the things to look forward to that we can’t get to any other way.  

Episode Highlights

About Our Guest:

Newsweek calls Carl “A verbal magician, conjuring concepts with no new idea too complex to capture.”

Just one of the ah-ha moments in this conversation is an analogy that fundamentally shifts our perception of the value of aging. Clearly, our mindset about the passing years could parallel how we think of progressing through the levels of a video game: with every new level you attain, you gain wisdom and experience that allows you to cruise along more successfully through the next! 

And that is exactly what happened to cause Carl Honoré to start championing and celebrating the advantages of aging. 

In 2005, after giving a renowned TED talk, Carl became the face of the global SLOW movement—an awareness of being truly present for whatever we are doing. Then, unsurprisingly, during his years illuminating that topic he slowly appreciated a second concept that needed a champion: celebrating the advantages of aging. 

Carl’s work and advocacy for a more relaxed way of living took him from Slow Food, Slow Cities, slow travel, Slow Medicine, and slow walking, etc. to realizing we will get better at doing all that as we gain wisdom over the years. Only the passage of time can give us the perspectives we need to know best when to hurry through something versus savoring it. 

His two main-stage TED Talks have racked up millions of views. (Here is a link to the latest, about the advantages of aging: Why We Should Embrace the Adventure.  And Carl is now opening the world’s eyes about Ageism: prejudice or discrimination on the grounds of a person’s age.

His newest book, and the one we are celebrating in this episode, is called Bolder, and it squarely takes on the cult of youth, leaving us set free to enjoy whatever phase of life we are in.   

Honoré is a highly sought after lecturer who speaks around the world and his work has appeared in publications including The Economist, Observer, The Guardian, TIME magazine, and National Post. 

Enjoy this terrific conversation and want more of Carl’s common-sense, approachable wisdom?

  1. His first interview with us is “Get Closer to the Good Life: Ditch the Fast Life with Carl Honoré (Episode #114).
  1. His two main-stage TED Talks have racked up millions of views. Here is a link to the latest, about the advantages of aging: Why We Should Embrace the Adventure.
  1. The most recent thing he has done is a master class for TED.com called ‘How to Slow Down,” a very new venture for TED which Carl was chosen to help kick off. 
  1. Carl has three other books that could change your future: 

His first book, In Praise of Slowness, chronicles the global trend toward putting on the brakes in everything from work to food to parenting. 

Carl’s second book, Under Pressure, explores how to raise and educate children in a fast world and was hailed by Time as a “gospel of the Slow Parenting movement.”

Carl’s third book, The Slow Fix, explores how to tackle complex problems in every walk of life, from health and relationships to business and politics, without falling for superficial, short-term quick fixes.

Resources Mentioned:

Show Notes

00:00 Preview

 00:47 Aging as An Adventure

  • Society bombards us with the idea that aging is a form of surrender or a disease, or a curse.
  • We should embrace aging as it’s natural.
  • We can embrace aging as a process of opening doors rather than closing them.
  • We have a cult around “youth”’
  • We are all grappling with the passage of time.
  • We can approach aging with a spirit of optimism.
  • We should embrace milestone birthdays instead of mourning them.
  • “Aging is an extraordinary process where you become the person you  always should have been.” – David Bowie
  • Research has shown that buying into ageism and the cult of youth can increase your chances of:
    1. Physical decline
    2. Dementia
    3. Dying younger
  • Buying into ageism and the cult of youth is the ultimate act of harm.

04:26 Ageism: A Problem We Can Solve 

  • Debbie Shore appeared on Episode 136 of the Conspiracy of Goodness Podcast and spoke about the importance of solving the problems that we can solve.
  • Ageism is a problem we can solve.
  • Ageism affects all of us and therefore fixing it can help us all.
  • In today’s world, we’re living better lives for longer.
  • While we might lose physical ability gradually there’s still a lot we can do.
  • Carl recently got chosen to play for The Great Britain masters national ball hockey team.
  • Ages can be seen the same way as levels in a video game.
  • In Carl’s book, Bolder, he speaks to the value of the experience we gain as we get older.

04:26 Creativity 

  • People can be creative at all stages of their lives.
  • Some forms of creativity can only be attained with time and experience.
  • Young people do not have a monopoly on creativity.
  • History is full of examples of people doing creative work later on in their lives e.g Beethoven, Bach, Michaelangelo, etc.
  • In the UK, where Carl lives, there’s a Turner Prize for visual artists that had an age cap of 50 years old.
  • The age cap on the Turner Prize was removed in 2017 because the Chair of the organization stated that a creative breakthrough can be made at any age.

16:11 Break

21:38 The U-Shaped Happiness Curve

  • Human beings follow a U-shaped happiness curve.
    1. We start out happy in childhood.
    2. We bottom out in middle age.
    3. Then we bounce back up again.
  • The adults around the world who report the highest levels of life satisfaction are the over 55’s.
  • Scientists have found a similar U shaped happiness curve in chimpanzees, bonobos, and orangutans which suggests that a happiness boost later on in life is within our primate genes.
  • One theory about happiness later in life suggests that happy grandparents lead to longevity  in tribes.

28:28 An Upbeat Perspective 

  • Whatever you’re grappling with, you get back what you put into the world.
  • If you default to doom and gloom you won’t get a whole lot of joy back.
  • So much of what is good with the world starts with us as individuals.

30:24 The Talent Shortage

  • There is currently a talent shortage and a high number of underemployed people.
  • We need to structurally change the way people finance their retirement and the way savings plans are set up.
  • Older workers have been frozen out or pushed off the off ramp of the working world.
  • Older people are still willing and able to work. 
  • Companies are changing their approach to older staff.
  • Companies are introducing initiatives to make older staff feel more welcomed and to welcome back older staff that have retired.
  • Programs geared toward older staff include:
    1. Reverse Mentorship
    2. Consultancy Programs
  • Keeping people with institutional knowledge is critical.
  • Dr. Jill Tarter retired as the director of the SETI institute at 80 years old and had a wealth of institutional knowledge that would have been lost if she retired at 65. Hear her story on Episode 128 of theConspiracy of Goodness Podcast.
  • We pay the price when we put experienced people to pasture.

33:10 Experience & Pattern Recognition

  • A big part of problem solving comes down to pattern recognition.
  • Experience allows people to spot patterns they’re familiar with or have seen before.
  • The more you’ve lived the more patterns you have seen.

38:37 Neurodiversity

  • Science has proven that diverse teams produce better results.
  • Recruitment systems can be designed to either keep out or facilitate diversity in the hiring process.
  • Digital technology such as AI can be used to ensure that teams are age diverse and that older people have a fair shot at selection.
  • As we get older we tend to see the world as more gray than black and white.
  • Older people also tend to be less alarmist and see the glass as half full.
  • Carl enjoys the age diversity of his hockey team.
  • Diversity of age preserves knowledge.
  • Renewal and refreshing of knowledge also occurs when teams are age diverse.

41:54 Truths about Aging

  • The saying that “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks” is not true of dogs and it’s not true of people.
  • The phrase lifelong learning is a pillar of rethinking and reframing aging.
  • Novelty keeps us fresh and cognitively fit.
  • As we grow older we become less absorbed with our own personal gains.
  • The second half of life tends to cause a shift of focus toward giving back and being of service to others.

45:41 Experience & Pattern Recognition

  • Aging is not a downward spiral, it’s an upward surge.
  • The more we share positive stories about aging the more the views on ageism will change.

55:05 Closing

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