How Old is 'Young?'


How old are our ‘youth’ today? I was shocked to learn recently that a large and growing youth empowerment organization counted 40-year-olds among its ‘youth’ members. Since when is 40 ‘young?’ Actually, 40 is about middle age. Worldwide, the United Nations and the World Health Organization place the average life expectancy at 71 [2010-2013], while in the US, average life expectancy is 78.8 [Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics]. Though there are reports that in our lifetimes most people will easily live to 100 or more, and currently the IRS says we will live to our mid-80s on average, this still places 40 as nearly middle aged!

Why is this important? Because as long as we allow 40-year olds [even 30-year olds!] to think of themselves as ‘youth’ they will not self-actualize into mature, independent, self-sufficient, productive tax-paying citizens. They will continue to see themselves as the dependents their parents have allowed or enabled them to become. And now, more than ever perhaps, our world needs mature responsible, enlightened, independent thinkers, visionaries and activators! Not 40-year olds who see themselves as ‘youth.’

Our world needs passionate, mature lovers living in their own spaces, lovingly and responsibly providing for children and pets. Our businesses need moral trained, skilled, detail-oriented experts; adults who have tried and failed, learned, grown and prevailed.

Our communities need coaches to be mentors, and teachers who can authentically and compassionately guide children from their own adult life experience. The nonprofit sector needs thinking impassioned self-aware workers to help protect and defend the fabric of our society. Religious institutions desperately need clergy who can maturely and wisely, ethically and soundly guide our flocks. And our world needs political leaders who have their own highly developed life compass based on independent experience, diverse exposure, failed attempts, overcoming odds, eyes and minds open to the truth of inequality, poverty and spiritual and financial mayhem. These adults must find or create the building blocks to be the strong predecessor and role models their children and grandchildren can admire, respect and emulate!

If a 40-year old is still considered a ‘youth,’ an entire generation will have been passed by.

We are already going to have tremendous obstacles to overcome from ‘TechGen’--the selfie generation of babies swiping IPhones who become children thinking that snapchatting rainbow vomit is stimulation, to preteens who sext their genitals and teens who ‘trend Kardashian’ on twitter. I am aware that anyone with a smart phone can now create movies, start businesses, generate income and save the world-but if 35-year olds are still living in their parents’ homes and 40-year olds are still ‘youth’ then no number of tools and toys will be transformed into progress to help grow a sustainable world with a healthy and loving future for all.

It takes moving mountains to keep the peace, to save our planet, and to continue to evolve humanity. Maturity is what’s needed today. Sure, have fun! But grow up and make a difference.