65 is the New 21
Roughly a century ago, a person of 21 could look forward to a life of "maturity," for another 30 years, and then it was time to prepare for the end -- of so few making it beyond 65. In fact, that was such a given, that the initial founding of Social Security a few decades later, relied on the fact that so few would live very many years after they reached 65 -- and if they did, all the power to them to live as long as they could.
Now, pretty much the average person makes it to 65 -- and lives many years beyond, which is one of the unintended consequences of Social Security and other government assistance programs. People who live better, live longer -- and those who prepare better to live longer, are unprecedented in human history and experience. With that lengthening of the life span, the smartest people will take as long as possible to prepare them for real life -- instead of the traditional 21 years, and in times past, maybe only 12 -- before they were finding their way in the world, on their own.
Even before the invention of mass factories employing child labor, children were often shipped off to earn a living as soon as they were able -- at the end of their childhood. Adolescence then used to be a difficult time because many of that age physically as strong as adults -- but lacking the knowledge and experience in life, to be easily manipulated and exploited. Formal education was a luxury few people had. What they knew, they largely learned from their own experiences in life. There was no mass media to tell everybody what to think. Everyone had to figure it out for themselves.
Needless to say, it was not a very efficient and welcoming system and society, but a very difficult one -- and so few reached the age of 21 unscathed and unscarred -- as most do now. That is now regarded as every child's birthright -- to have a happy and undeprived childhood -- for which the purpose of government now is to ensure, and even lengthen -- now pass the college years, until they can truly find their way in the world. The norm is graduation from college but now that passage has been deferred indefinitely -- with the realization even, that some will never grow up -- no matter how long they live.
So it is quite possible, never fully to mature -- which is good and bad. The good is not stopping to learn -- and "get on with it," prematurely before one really knows what they are doing -- while the bad is never having to feel one has to "grow up" and take full responsibility for their own lives. One came into this world as an irresponsible baby, and leaves the world like an irresponsible baby -- requiring the care of others, to keep them alive. At no point, do they ever exhibit any capacity or inkling, to care of themselves -- as their primary responsibility and meaning and purpose of their lives -- as symbolized by the age of maturity, self-sufficiency, and independence.
Such discussions, are even deemed "politically incorrect" -- to hold anyone accountable for their actions, thoughts and behaviors -- as the essential social contract. Rather, they are inculcated with the notion that everything in life is random behavior -- and so there can be no consequences, no causes, no effects. People are just enabled to do whatever they want to do -- and the more entertaining, the better -- but it all signifies nothing, or better, whatever one wants it to.
In an earlier time, this coming of age and responsibility as a truly mature person of society, was the advanced age of 21 -- when the life expectancy was 42, and now it is twice that -- and better, but significantly for those living better lives. That may take them their entire adulthood to accomplish -- and then they are "retired," and not expected to work hard anymore to support themselves. It is only at that time, that most achieve that independence in the new world of freedom from want and hardship -- that formerly characterized human society, history and its literature.
The world has changed so dramatically -- particularly in these last hundred years, and especially in the last twenty, that life is very different now -- obviously to everyone but those still insisting that there is nothing new, and that history just repeats itself -- and so should they. But even as much as people will admit that life is very different now -- from even twenty years ago, most are not aware of the magnitude of those changes -- to realize that the age of 65, is really the milestone that 21 was previously.
The progression, has been geometric and not linear. The difference has been a quantum leap in human evolution and lives -- particularly for those who can embrace that reality. Each now has access to the total knowledge and information -- which would have taken years, if not lifetimes, to learn -- which no longer has to be learned, but only accessed, used, and forgotten -- just as quickly and easily, to be able to move on -- to the next thing they need to know.
Such a mind, never grows old -- but is always learning something new, and not simply repeating the old, as the old are wont to do. That is what makes them "old" -- and that can happen at any age in life -- when an individual stops growing, and decides that they know "enough" -- not to have to learn anything more, or new. Those who stop that learning at 21, age in the predictable familiar manner; those who don't stop that learning at 65, create possibilities for themselves they could not even imagine before.
That is how much life has changed.