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Here's to a Really Big Resolution

5.Redefine work. Surveys show that the majority of boomers plan to work at least part time in these years -- for economic and psychological reasons. But the jobs aren't there for them. One issue is that many older men and women want flexible work schedules. Phyllis Moen, a sociology professor at the University of Minnesota, suggests breaking down the traditional workweek into 10-hour units: Some would work four units, some two units. This would also benefit parents of young children.

6.Open your heart. Close relationships, research shows, are the key to aging well. In the longevity paradox, older men and women can expect to live many more years -- but they also know that it could end tomorrow. As the 19th-century Swiss philosopher Henri-Frédéric Amiel advised, when time is short, "be swift to love and make haste to be kind."

7.Steward the family. With an activist generation of grandparents, the American family is stronger. The four-generation family is fast becoming the norm: young children, parents, grandparents and frail adult relatives. There are now two healthy generations to take care of dependent family members. The grandparent role is to love extravagantly; to support, supplement and sometimes substitute for stressed parents; to pass down values, family lore and the lessons of history.

8.Watch out for depression. We all know about diet and exercise -- but we don't pay enough attention to mental health. Nearly 20 percent of older Americans have a psychiatric problem but few get care, according to government figures. The highest suicide rates of any age group are in white men over 65. Sometimes people suffer a clinical depression for the first time after age 50. Grieving is normal; depression is a disease that needs to be treated.

9.Expose ageism. Prejudice against older people is insidious. In a recent study by the International Longevity Center in New York, researchers found bias and negative stereotyping in many arenas, from health care to the media. Discrimination in the workplace is so prevalent that AARP advises people of a certain age not to list age or graduation dates on their résumé.

10.Put aging on the political agenda. It's not just about managing Social Security and Medicare. It's also about changing laws and creating opportunities to tap into the potential of an unprecedented cohort of vital older Americans.

If we do all these things, future generations will have a map to follow when they come to this newly discovered territory of longevity. ·

Comments:trafforda@washpost.com.


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