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The modern age

With increasing lifespans ensuring Australians are working and staying active longer, our baby boomers are quickly realising that ageing is simply a numbers game they have to live with and make the most of. WORDS: Candice Holznagel.

Is 60 the new 40 and is 70 the new 50? If you compare the current generation of post-60-year-olds to their parents, then yes. On the whole, this generation is looking and feeling younger.

And it’s not just a feeling. The Australian Bureau of Statistics reports that during the past 120 years, the life expectancy of Australians has increased by about 30 years, giving us the third-highest ranking in the world. By 2050, Australia is predicted to have 50,000 people aged 100 and over.

So, what is the secret to this new-found fountain of youth?

Medical researchers say that improvements in healthcare, nutrition, education and physical and mental activity are all factors in increased lifespans.

Our baby boomers are working longer and many are interacting more frequently and more actively with their grandchildren (the latest Census data indicates that about one in eight reported caring for children).

In addition, the baby boomer generation is staying active through volunteering (data shows they are the generation most likely to volunteer and provide unpaid assistance to others) and their connection with sporting and community groups.

Prior to COVID-19, the generation led the way in travel numbers, and these figures are starting to pick up again.

Yes, it is fair to say that baby boomers are living a full and active life.

“I believe this newly won vitality has to do with historical changemakers including increased access to education, better medicine, food and standard of living. In tandem with that comes a wider range and choice of education, the privilege of living longer and healthier lives and, I can’t resist adding, the good fortune of relatively affordable international travel.”

Meet Gail Forrer. At 65, she is fresh-faced, fun, witty and educated. She recently embarked on a new career and is now seeking further tertiary study.

In other words, she is the epitome of the new 60.

Generational change and evolution are topics Gail has invested time into, and she hopes to educate others through her completed Master of Arts thesis.

“I believe curiosity, a desire to take a deep dive into what makes us and our world tick, definitely contributes to youthful attitudes,” Gail says.

“Naturally, it was curiosity that led to the creation of my thesis subject Voicing the generational disruption experienced by post-55-year-old and older women in contemporary Australian society.

“Basically, I was examining the things that made us different from the previous generation. For instance, as teenagers or young adults, we experienced the introduction of reliable and easy contraception, the no-fault divorce, the women’s liberation movement and, for a while, free tertiary education thanks to the government of the day, which for the first time saw women enter universities in unprecedented numbers.

“Odd, yet serious gender inequalities, such as the one that said women once married were no longer able to work in banks, were dismantled and lost their power in 1968.

“The point is, I see all of those changes as major contributors to the energy that keeps both myself and contemporaries living interesting, challenging and meaningful lives – qualities usually only assigned to youth.

“I think I was lucky being born into these times. Due to these changes, I have been able to have children, grandchildren, study and, when I was ready, work in my chosen career – journalism – all without fear or favour.”

Gail views her adult life in two parts. In the first part, she married, had two children, worked in a series of jobs and travelled. In her 30s, she began to study journalism, the stars aligned and the community-minded, curiosity-driven woman found herself in the centre of grassroots journalism.

If her name is familiar, this is why: Gail went on to establish a successful career in editorship roles across the Sunshine Coast and Brisbane.

Following COVID-19 and a different outlook on life, she began a new career chapter in 2022. She began freelancing before taking a complete break from writing and finding a new path to follow.

The When will I retire? Economic impact of an ageing population 2021 report from KPMG tells us that the retirement age has risen in the past three decades. In 2021, men aged 45 were expected to retire at 65.2, and women were expected to retire almost one year earlier at 64.3.

Over the past 30 years, the expected retirement age for women has increased by 3.5 years, and 1.9 years for men.

The National University’s Working Well, Working Wisely study shows that by 2060, nearly one-half of Australians aged 64 or older will be employed.

Experts report that the extended workforce age is driven by the need to fund longer lives, as well as the changing social attitudes towards ageing workers.

Many people also choose to continue working simply because they enjoy their job, or find a new avenue in part-time work.

“I’m not sure the deadlines, details and inherent stress keep you young, but it does keep you excited and that has to be a big part of staying young,” Gail laughs, as she reflects on her 30-year journalism career.

“[In 2022] I decided to explore something completely different and took up the opportunity to become part of an eclectic collective of people populating a fabulous coffee shop called Ground Alchemy in New Farm, Brisbane.

“My business is called Ground Plantarium. I’m constantly in awe of the beauty of plants and revel in supporting and watching them grow. The small homewares section allows me to indulge in a tad of interior design – another subject where I derive a lot of joy.

“In the business, I constantly extend myself as I meet new people, listen to their points of view and learn to sell in a retail environment.

“And now comes the point where I mention the other component of youthfulness: wonder. Nature – trees and now my plants – invokes a big sense of wonder for me.”

Gail is a believer in maintaining a youthful soul, but admits that with age, new questions and considerations arise.

“Still, while my soul is fed on inner joys and I agree you are only as young as you feel, at 65 years old, there are the inevitable physical changes,” she says.

“These questions pose some big questions: can I truly live a happy life with wrinkles, saggy jawlines, white hair, weight gain and age spots?

“Or do I take advantage of modern cosmetic technology and reclaim my youthful body? What is beauty and who is the judge.

“Am I living an authentic life if I can’t live with the natural signs of ageing? Do I have the internal fortitude to resist the construct invented by the beauty industry for my age group?

“It’s a tricky one – and honestly, I’ve had my share of botox, fillers and eyebrow tattooing and have been extremely content with the results.

“Dare I say, it helps keep me young.

“But as I travel further into older age, I think I’m needing less of these enhancements.

“I move with like-minded friends who are mainly in their 60s and I would guess that most of us have youthful, can-do attitudes: that is, we seek to explore, understand and challenge rather than react to the changing circumstances of our lives with passive indifference.

“But that’s just me and, let’s face it, diversity adds a tantalising flavour to the world.

“Ultimately, I respect how anyone choose to age – with tattoos or not.

“Personally, having a choice on how I age – whether I want to look 40 at 60 or indeed 80 at 60 – is up to me, and that’s what I like about contemporary ageing.

“Check your Instagram account and you are sure to find a 60-plus-year-old right up your alley and ready to follow.

“That’s the real beauty of modern ageing.”


In Australia, a boy born in 2018–2020 can expect to live to the age of 81.2 years and a girl would be expected to live to 85.3 years, compared with 51.1 for boys and 54.8 years for girls born in 1891–1900.

Men aged 65 in 2018–2020 could expect to live another 20.3 years (an expected age at death of 85.3 years) and women aged 65 in 2018–2020 could expect to live another 23.0 years (an expected age at death of 88.0 years).

Source: ABS


Candice's passion for journalism led her to the Sunshine Coast 12 years ago where she has worked across multiple media and communication platforms. An avid traveller (she lists Paris, Venice and Vietnam as her faves), this mum of one loves meeting with people from all walks of life and finds inspiration within their stories. Candice joined the team in 2014 and is MWP's editor.

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