Trucks at Work

Wisdom of the ages

I’ve touched on the subject of older workers and the trucking industry a few times of late (go here and here for some of those stories) and wanted to do so again in this space from a different perspective: such as, what age do most folks consider to be “the wisest” or the one at which people reach “optimal happiness”?

Even more critically, are there similarities between the many age groups that make up today’s workforce – the Baby Boomers, Gen Xers, and Millennials – especially when it comes to priorities such as family time and salaries.

That’s why a recent survey conducted by UnitedHealthcare (UHC) caught my eye: a poll that at its heart discerned that the definition of “old” depends on who you ask.

UHC’s annual [email protected] survey polled 100 people age 100 or older (referred to as “centenarians”) to examine their attitudes and opinions on health, family, likes and dislikes, etc.

This year, the 10th anniversary of this survey, UHC also polled 100 10-year-olds to offer a comparison between how some of the youngest and oldest Americans view aging.

This “graying of America” is a big deal for trucking as nearly 84 million Americans are expected to reach age 65 or older by 2050, UHC noted. The “why” of that is pretty straightforward as trucking is a labor-intensive industry. Indeed, Dave Osiecki – executive VP and chief of national advocacy for the American Trucking Associations (ATA) trade group – noted in a recent press conference that there are some 3 million to 5 million registered commercial driver’s license (CDL) holders in the U.S.; no one is exactly sure how many.

So let’s get back to UHC’s findings. While the survey sample is very small, and of course no one is planning to put a 100 year-old behind the wheel of a big rig, the viewpoints on aging gleaned from this poll are pretty interesting.

Rhonda Randall, chief medical officer for UHC’s Retiree Solutions division, noted that, when asked what age they truly feel, more than half (52%) of 100-year-olds say they feel younger than their actual age. On average, centenarians report feeling more than two decades younger at age 79; meaning they feel like they did at 59.

Reflecting back on the various stages of their lives, centenarians on average had this to say:

  • They felt the most attractive at age 31;
  • The most energetic at age 34;
  • The happiest at age 44;
  • The healthiest at age 46;
  • The wisest at age 49; and
  • The most content at age 56.

On top of all that, some 60% of centenarians polled by UHC said they don’t feel old – and among those who do, they did not start feeling “old” until age 87, on average. By comparison, though, 10-year-olds said people start to get old at age 46, on average.

Here are a few other interesting findings regarding aging from UHC’s survey:

Centenarians say “Positive Attitude” and “Health” are linked: Keeping a positive attitude is the most important factor in staying healthy, according 25% of the centenarians UHC surveyed. The next most popular answers are eating healthy (21%), exercising regularly (10%), and keeping busy (9%).

Nearly two-thirds (61%) of 100-year-olds say they see themselves as being very positive people – which makes them more optimistic than the 10-year-olds surveyed. Just 44% of 10-year-olds say they are very positive people, but the younger generation may catch up: nearly half of centenarians (47%) say it gets easier to maintain a positive attitude with age.

“Year after year, we hear from centenarians that there is a correlation between healthy aging and a healthy mindset,” said Randall. “It’s a good reminder for us all to take care of our mental, emotional and social health -- in addition to our physical health.”

Family is a top priority for young and old alike: When it comes to fueling positivity, many centenarians and 10-year-olds look no further than their closest connections. Some 11% of centenarians and 31% of 10-year-olds say their friends and family are the keys to maintaining a positive attitude. Almost half of centenarians (45%) and 40% of 10-year-olds say they would rather spend time with their family more than anyone else in the world.

Both groups also make sure to keep in touch with family members that live outside their homes, as 83% of centenarians and 84% of 10-year-olds speak with extended family on a daily or weekly basis.

When asked who they thought of as a role model growing up, nearly half of centenarians (46%) chose their parents over other family members, friends, teachers and celebrities. Today’s 10-year-olds also cite their parents as role models, with 71% placing their parents at the top of the list.

Some things to keep in mind as the industry continues to grapple with the how to find, hire and keep more truck drivers for the long haul.

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