Mo Rocca On An Older America

mo rocca sunday morning
Sunday Morning contributor Mo Rocca talks about what the United States might look like if living to 100 becomes the norm.

As you already heard, America isn't getting any younger. Twelve percent of today's population is older than 65. In 2050, that number will jump to 21 percent. Right now America includes over 67,000 centenarians — people over 100. In 2040, there'll be more than 580,000 100-year-olds.

Poor Willard Scott will have to spend all day wishing people happy birthday. By the way, he'll be 106 in 2040.

The growing 100-plus demographic raises a lot of questions:

  • Is it normal for your 84-year-old son to be living at home still? Or is it time to show him some tough love and give him the boot?
  • Is it OK to comment on your 79-year-old daughter's recent weight gain?
  • Will that daughter ever inherit her mother's silver? She hopes so … soon.

    Will we still talk about the "sandwich generation"? Forty-somethings caring for their children and their parents. What about the future 60-somethings caring for their grandkids and their grandparents? The "triple-decker sandwich generation."

    The most pressing questions have to do with all that extra time:

    If you're a slacker, you're thrilled: Our grandparents' life expectancy was about 60. If I live till 100, that gives me an extra 40 years to mess around, figure out what I want to do, and I can still match them. And they were the Greatest Generation!

    For others, 30- to 40-year retirement holds the promise of a whole other life. Sixty-year-olds will have to settle down and think long and hard about what they want to be when they retire. My advice: dream big.

    Hey, you. You spent your life at the IRS hating yourself for not becoming a cellist. Well, stop hating and start practicing. You may not make the New York Philharmonic but the Sarasota Chamber Orchestra has an empty chair. And you'll play with feeling.
    And you, you just walked away from 40 years at Bank of America. Big benefits package. And now you want to become a nurse? You'll be great.

    Thirty-eight years driving a truck and now you want to become a playwright? I'll bet you've got stories that have never been told on a stage.

    I look forward to the older America. It will be smarter, kinder and safer (even if it's constantly complaining about it being colder). And it won't be any less healthy. Medical technology will allow us to replace joint after joint, organ after organ. Which begs one other question: If the only thing left of yours is your brain, is that still "you"?

    Hmmm, a tough, ethical question. I'll leave that to an older, wiser mind.