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Century Lives

Author: Stanford Center on Longevity

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If there is one thing we know about retirement, it’s that the rules are changing. Longer life, better health, changing work conditions, and challenging financial times mean that the new retirement will be different from the old. But how will it be different? In Season 5 of Century Lives, we explore the new retirement through the stories of eight different employees of Harris Health, the largest public health system in Texas. The employees are united by the fact that they share the same workplace, but they are divided by very different personal stories and goals – and very different financial situations. They are nurses, doctors, carpenters, CEOs, and security officers, and they are imagining very different retirements.

41 Episodes
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The Generational Shift

The Generational Shift

2024-02-2124:21

Though attitudes about retirement are shifting rapidly, traditional notions of retirement still hold currency. In Episode 6, we meet Maria and Brendan D’Souza. Maria is a senior nurse at Lyndon B. Johnson Hospital, just a few years away from retirement. Her son Brendan is freshly minted from medical school, starting his career just a few floors away from his mother. They share a family bond, a career, and many of the same interests and passions, but for all that unites them, different perspectives and circumstances facing their generations are creating different ideas about retirement, caregiving and family commitments.
I Will Never Retire

I Will Never Retire

2024-02-1429:241

For some, work is a calling, and they can’t ever imagine giving it up.  In episode 5, we meet Michael Segal, and hear his incredible journey—beginning with being left for dead on the floor of a convenience store in Austin, TX and ending with his lifelong commitment to helping trauma victims survive and flourish in the trauma wards of Ben Taub Hospital.
My Next Act

My Next Act

2024-02-0725:581

For some, retirement is just the starting pistol for that next act. Whether it is a new business or an entirely new career, retirement is just an out-of-date term for starting something new. To this group, entrepreneurship is a big draw (older Americans are the fastest growing group of entrepreneurs) but it’s really about the freedom to pursue an exciting new phase of life. In episode 4, we meet Tasha Mayweather, and are drawn into her vision for her next act: KBK Skating Palace. And that’s just the beginning.
The Classic

The Classic

2024-01-3124:22

Retire young: travel, spend time with family, perhaps tend to a nice piece of land in the country. It is the retirement that we all are supposed to want, but relatively few people get. In episode 3, we meet Carrie Nealis, a nurse in her late 30s who dreams of having the retirement her parents did. But she is challenged by the uncertainty of our times and the nagging belief that her generation will not share the same opportunities of their parents.
The Struggle

The Struggle

2024-01-2432:08

It’s a common story: approaching retirement with little or no savings, uncertain how far social security or savings will take you, dealing with climbing health care costs and the potential responsibility for providing financial support to adult children. Increasingly, retirement is a financial struggle for millions. In episode 2, we meet Genie and Burgess Etzel, both approaching the final year of their careers at Harris Health. Perhaps they have it made: two pensions, a house in a fashionable neighborhood, a loving family. All this is true, but as with so many Americans, it hides complex family dynamics and the challenging math of the new retirement.
Meet The Boss

Meet The Boss

2024-01-1722:32

If there is a new vision of what “The New Retirement” should be, it is the “all of the above” retiree: stay healthy, stay involved in something you are passionate about, and be a dedicated caregiver to your future grandchildren. In episode 1, we meet Esmaeil Porsa, the CEO of Harris Health, to hear about his arduous and shockingly improbable road to the top of Harris Health, and what it means for the retirement that may not come as soon as his family hopes.
In episode 6, we explore an insidious epidemic, equivalent to the health effects of smoking 15 cigarettes a day. It can cause inflammation, heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. And it can cut our lives short by as much as 30 percent. It’s not Covid - or a virus - or a bad diet. It’s loneliness. More than 60 percent of Americans report feeling lonely and disconnected. And that number keeps going up. Today we’ll explore the health effects of loneliness. And our host Ken Stern comes up with an ingenious way to overcome his own feelings of isolation - as he sets out to make six new friends in his neighborhood.
Zombie Takis

Zombie Takis

2023-12-0635:32

Obesity rates have exploded in the US over the past half-century, with negative consequences for healthy longevity. We travel to rural Arkansas, where we visit countless dollar stores and explore the impact of ultra-processed foods on the obesity epidemic. We also examine potential solutions – from anti-obesity medication to Food Is Medicine interventions – as we begin to tackle obesity as a disease and not a personal choice.
The Emerald Necklace

The Emerald Necklace

2023-11-2934:381

In Episode 4, we explore how the built environment—and trees—impact communities. Renowned landscape architect Frederick Law Olmstead designed Buffalo, New York, around its parks, and it was once considered the best-designed city in America. But in the mid-20th century, one of his parkways was torn out and replaced with a highway that connected downtown with the new suburbs, in the name of urban renewal. We explore the impact of the highway on the surrounding community and traffic safety for automobiles and pedestrians alike. The city plans to put a cap on the highway to restore the urban parkway—and Frederick Law Olmstead's vision. But is it too late?
Heat is (Not) My Jam

Heat is (Not) My Jam

2023-11-1534:312

In Episode 3 of Century Lives Season 4: A Lifetime of Inequality, we go to Phoenix, Arizona, to understand how it is that the built environment can have great consequences for lifelong health and longevity. We focus our story on trees, which are abundant in wealthy North Phoenix, and almost completely absent in South Phoenix—instead replaced by concrete, warehouses, railroads, highways, and the like. In Episode 3, we discuss how climate change is only exacerbating the situation, and how the consequences affect predominantly poverty-level Black and Latino people.
In Episode 1 of Century Lives Season 4: A Lifetime of Inequality, we visit Albuquerque, New Mexico, to explore the impact of early childhood education on lifelong health. The story looks at the impact of high quality early childhood education on health, and then follows the 12-year effort to pass Constitutional Amendment 1—an amendment to fully fund childhood education for all children in the state.
Presidio

Presidio

2023-02-1539:225

If there's one thing we know about life expectancy in the US, it's that wealthy communities have long life expectancies and poor communities have shorter life expectancies. But some poorer communities far exceed their peers in terms of health outcomes and length of life. Experts will tell you that “place matters"—but they can’t tell you exactly why. In Episode 1 of Century Lives: Place Matters, we visit Presidio County, Texas. It’s one of the poorest places in America and one of the top ten longest-lived counties in the nation. We explore the extraordinary story of Presidio—how the community flourishes despite its poverty and distance from health care, and what the rest of us can learn from its longevity.
The Unretirement

The Unretirement

2022-06-1528:2616

People 55+ are reinventing life post-retirement, from its traditional image to a time for exploring second chapters and, especially, opportunities that bring meaning, purpose, and community. What does this new phase of the work experience look like and how can more of us find inspiration as we work longer? People 55+ are remaking what it means to "retire" without following the traditional roadmap. Instead of rest and relaxation, they are pursuing new channels to build on their skills, grow their experiences and contribute to their communities in a meaningful way. In this episode of Century Lives: The 60-Year Career, we examine how this generation - one that's living longer, staying active and determined to ignore the old roadmap - is redefining this phase of life. We talk with people who have thought about and are living post-retirement careers including an art gallery director who found a second calling as a letter writer for people at end of life and the founder of a nonprofit supporting “encore careers.” Guests are: Aaron Benanav, Postdoctoral Researcher at Humboldt-Universitat zu Berlin; Frish Brandt, President and Partner at the Fraenkel Gallery; David Blustein, Professor of Counseling Psychology at Boston College; Marc Freedman, Founder and CEO of Encore.org; and Sandra Harris, President of AARP Massachusetts.
Work After 50

Work After 50

2022-06-0830:438

More than three-quarters of older workers experience ageism in the workplace, yet changing demographics and tight labor markets make this employee base increasingly critical to American businesses. We examine the obstacles faced by older workers and how some companies are trying to connect with them.     If longer careers truly are our future, then American business will need to overcome its aversion to older workers. Our demographic course is already set: Due to increased longevity and declines in birth rate, older workers will become essential to the economy in the coming years. Yet according to AARP, 78% of workers 50+ saw or experienced ageism in 2020 and countless more didn’t even get that first interview. In this episode of Century Lives: The 60-Year Career, we examine how this undervalued segment of the workforce will be a key building block of the economy of the future and highlight innovative company-based solutions to embrace them. Guests are: Ashton Applewhite, activist and author of This Chair Rocks, A Manifesto Against Ageism; Lena Barkley, Operations Manager of Workforce Initiatives at CVS Health; Ronald Lee, Professor of the Graduate School in Demography and Economics at University of California Berkeley; Barbara Spitzer, Managing Director at Accenture; and Elizabeth White, aging solutions advocate and author of 55, Underemployed, and Faking Normal.
The 62% Solution

The 62% Solution

2022-06-0129:411

Over 100 million Americans - 62% - pursue careers without having a college degree; for them, landing good-paying, stable jobs has become increasingly difficult. What's behind employers' increasing demand for a diploma, what are new alternative pathways for these workers to secure employment and how do we ensure that they have more opportunities for longer, successful career equality? When exploring longer lives and longer careers, it can be easy to focus solely on white-collar careers and the benefits that come with those opportunities. Yet nearly 2/3 of Americans are seeking work without the credentials of a college degree – a career track that often translates to low pay, job instability and persistent inequality, a situation made worse with the pandemic. The majority of new jobs added to the American economy over the past two decades have required a degree: Is the knowledge acquired in college so critical or are employers taking a cheap, easy way to identify workplace skills that can be learned elsewhere? In this episode of Century Lives, we examine the forces that have created this environment, alternative pathways to a good job and how more people can access careers that will provide them security through later life. Guests are: Birkti Asmerom, Software Development Student at Year Up D.C.; Anthony Carnevale, Director of the Georgetown University Center on Education and Workforce; Gerald Chertavian, Founder and CEO of Year Up; Nicole Escuadro, Director of Academics at Year Up D.C; and Derrick Ramsey, Former Secretary of Education and Workforce for the State of Kentucky.
The Free Agent Economy

The Free Agent Economy

2022-05-2532:58

Gig-based work has exploded over the last decade, accounting for almost all of America’s job growth. Is it a more flexible, personalized work experience or cost-cutting, exploitation tactic? And what should change so it’s fair to all?   Gig-based work represents virtually all of America’s job growth in the last decade. To some, it’s a solution for a more flexible, personalized work experience providing more time for other commitments. To others, however, it’s a means for companies to shed costs and exploit workers. In this episode, Century Lives: The 60-Year Career explores the many sides of this work phenomenon and, if it’s sticking around, what can be changed so that greater flexibility doesn’t come at too high of a price. Guests are: Sergio Avedian, Senior Contributor at the Rideshare Guy; Veena Dubal, Professor of Law, University of California, Hastings College of the Law; Paul Oyer, Professor of Economics, Stanford Business School; and Alexandrea Ravenelle, Assistant Professor of Sociology, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and author of Hustle and Gig.
The 25-Job Career

The 25-Job Career

2022-05-1831:514

With job tenures declining and job search technology booming, the traditional career ladder has vanished. How the new culture of job-hopping has created challenges and opportunities for workers and employers. The days of the decades-long single-employer career ladder are largely gone, a victim of factors ranging from aggressive job cutting by employers and the decline in union protections to reducing company loyalty and a thriving online job search industry fueled by technology. The defined career path has been replaced by a squiggly one. In this episode of Century Lives, we explore the reality of the 25-job career faced by Gen Z and Millennial workers by talking with economists, job seekers and recruiters; we even eavesdrop on a career counseling session. Guests include Sarah Ellis, podcaster and career coach; Jack Kelly, CEO of Wecruitr; Julia Pollak, chief economist at ZipRecruiter; and Timothy Taylor, managing editor at the Journal of Economic Perspectives.
Why We Work

Why We Work

2022-05-1130:184

Why do Americans work so much - more than their counterparts in almost every other developed country - and with the pandemic sparking a national crisis of purpose, how can we redefine our work/life balance to be healthier?   Americans spend more than 90,000 hours working over a lifetime - 10% more than our Canadian neighbors and 25% more than workers in Germany. How did this happen, why did our national assumptions and beliefs around work crash during the pandemic and what can we do to create a different work/life balance that's healthier? In our second episode of the season, we dive into America's history to understand how this work ethic emerged and why it is suddenly undergoing unprecedented change. From the Puritans to Horatio Alger, we navigate the cultural phenomena leading us to modern day. We also examine the decline in economic mobility that challenged this national mindset, and how we can now build different yet viable relationships with work. Guests are David Blustein, Boston University; Jared Rubin, Chapman University; and Aaron Benanav, Humboldt-Universitat zu Berlin.
Design Your Life

Design Your Life

2022-05-0426:154

What's the future of work if you're a college grad about to embark on a 60-year career? How to navigate the “big messy process” of charting a future in an uncertain world and the unique program that offers a strategic approach for all ages.  Longer lives means longer careers. The second season of Century Lives looks at the arc of the new work lifespan and how to make it better. In the new season's first episode, we’ll hear students' thinking about and planning for their future careers as they consider the shifting landscape of work and the likelihood of an unprecedented number of years in the workforce. We explore the idea behind Bill Burnett’s innovative Stanford course Design Your Life, which encourages design thinking as a tool to approach career questions and viable for any age, particularly in periods of transition and uncertainty.
Work

Work

2022-02-1632:152

Ever heard of a 3-stage life? Chances are you’ve been seeking to live it: education in the first quarter of your life, then work for 40 years, and finally a blissful retirement. But Andrew Scott, an Economist at London Business School, says that’s likely not the model most of us will be using anymore. Welcome to the multi-stage life, where yes–you work for closer to 60 years–but you get more choices: pick from education, work and rest at any stage in your life, and have the flexibility to define what work means for you.
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