"We have a life stage we never had before - this is the design opportunity of the 21st century"

A virus-light episode once more. This isn’t only because I’m finally seeing the back of a tiresome head cold/flu combo – no cough, no fever so it seems not COVID – but because the lockdown universe is heaving with shows on How to Cope, How to Distract, How to Produce more at home than you ever did at the office so I’m not going to go there.

I am not dissing the many purveyors of lockdown lifestyle advice – much of it is good to excellent and surely necessary but enough already is my feeling, confirmed by a straw poll of friends and family.

We each have our own way of adapting to this global trauma.

Since my cold meant I had to stop doing shopping runs for lovely high-risk neighbours, I slipped back into my old news junkie ways, incessantly scrolling, falling down bottomless Twitter tunnels for hours.

My trusted news sources – Reuters, the BBC, the New York Times, the FT, the Guardian, the Economist, Next Avenue, Channel 4 news – are covering every conceivable angle – the facts, first-person accounts, sidebars, explainers, roundups of all the remarkable stories of kindness displacing selfishness. Bar the corona and ageism show I’m working up now that I’m feeling better, I don’t see a coverage gap that needs filling by The Big Middle.

Virus news overload is hitting many, driving up anxiety levels. Instead of this rush to displacement activities, more busy-busy hurry-hurry but now indoors and online instead of out there in the world we shut down, surely, alongside the explosion of lockdown advice, we need to make time to process what’s happening. We need to sit with it. We need to just be and reflect instead of engaging in what feels like competitive lockdown hyper-production and self-optimisation.

This invisible menace presents a real opportunity to check our behaviour, to figure out how we can sustain the extraordinary displays of selflessness we’re seeing, to figure out how we can live in a kinder, gentler, more equitable, more compassionate way.

For the foreseeable surreal future, there will be no shortage of existential questions without clear answers. Future episodes of this podcast will focus on some of these questions.

To this week’s guest. Dr Linda Fried is a renowned geriatrician, epidemiologist, and Dean of the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University. I was thrilled to speak with her for The Longevity Forum at their flagship event here in London last November.

Dr Fried’s message then is even more pertinent now. The longevity revolution, she says, presents us with an entirely new stage of life and figuring out what to do with it is the design opportunity of the century.


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