The meaning of life — or why you’re never too old for a rollercoaster ride

Longevity is great, but who wants to be bored out of their mind at age 100? Living longer is the best bonus humanity has given us, but only if one remains purposeful and can engage with the passions and people they love.

Valentin Schellhaas
Apr 9, 2018 · 4 min read

Growing Smart vs. Growing Old

On March 9, 2018, the Guardian featured Jack Reynolds as breaking the world record as the oldest person at 105 enjoying rollercoaster rides. This is longevity at its best. Never giving up doing the things you love, never ceasing to stay active and vibrant. His quote encapsulates this attitude: “My family say I’m crazy, and I agree. But they always go along with me. All my life I’ve liked a challenge, and I like knowing I’ve beaten it.”

For the first time ever in the history of humanity, longevity has become a reality and is growing strong. With 450,000 centenarians in the world, the Office of National Statistics (ONS) reports 15,000 centenarians in 2015 in the UK, which is projected to quadruple in the next 10 years. For the purpose of international comparison, this puts UK at spot #8, or as a share of total population only at #15 according to UN figures.

But at the same time loneliness and depression in later life is on the rise, with the UK having already reached the one million mark for the elderly, as highlighted in the AgeUK 2015 report. Also according to the poll by Grasnet, the over-50s social networking site, they found that about seven in 10 (71%) respondents — average age 63 — said their close friends and family would be surprised or astonished to hear that they felt lonely. Gransnet is one of nine organizations — including Age UK, the Alzheimer’s Society and the Silver Line helpline for older people — working to address the issue of loneliness in older people. Despite many efforts in this space and the huge financial and societal impact of this topic, it seems that no widespread solution has been found yet.

Especially the transition out of the working life into retirement is a key risk for later life loneliness. This is why my co-founder and I are launching Zentor — a digital zen mentor to help master transitions in life. Because we believe that the key to solving loneliness and depression in later life is by preventing it in the first place!

Like Phoenix from the Ashes

We believe in starting with the transition into retirement as the proactive measure, as this is the time where one decides to either stay active and vibrant or become passive and let the world pass them by. If this transition is not managed properly, it can lead to loss of social networks, loss of mental stimulation and loss of purpose.

We have seen this struggle firsthand in people close to us, be it our parents, friends or other relatives, or as one or our interviewees in our customer research put it: “Retirement is the second big choice in life after your job, only this time it is more honest — you cannot hide behind ‘having to pay the bills’.”

The Telegraph cites a British study which tracked 3,400 retired civil servants and found that short-term memory declines nearly 40 per cent faster once employees become pensioners. It appears that the lack of regular stimulation takes a heavy toll on cognitive function and speeds up memory loss and dementia, researchers warned.

At Zentor, we empower individuals using our digital platform to join activities with other like-minded individuals and inspire them with ideas they might not have found on their own. By nudging them to create projects of their own, we allow our users to pursue an active lifestyle and live a long and fulfilling life.

We imagine a world where loneliness and depression in later life will be seen as a problem of the past. We imagine a day where all ages are seen for their true contribution to our society and an integral part of their community.

“A thriving ‘New Beginning’ can be and should be a time for amazing engagement, growth, connections, contributions and increased possibilities.” (Lee M. Brower)

The Zentor Promise

Zentor leverages technology to reconnect you to your people, your purpose, and your passions. It’s like Pinterest for retirement inspiration coupled with a LinkedIn to build a post-career network. Our mission it to enable you to purse a fulfilling long life and nudge you to never stop doing the things you enjoy.

Our users come from all walks of life, some in their 50s and others in their 70s who are open to try new things and see technology as an enabler for their life.

We are currently refining our MVP and are looking for retiree candidates that would like to participate in our pilot to help us create the best user experience. If you have parents, relatives, or friends recently retired or if this speaks to you — sign up on our website to join. The first 50 to sign up will get a chance to have a 30 min live sessions with the founders to discuss the Ultimate Questions of Life (be it 42 or something else).

Zentor was born out of the London based incubator Zinc. We were part of the first mission tackling the mental and emotional wellbeing of women and girls in the developed world — together with many other inspirational startups such as (but not limited to): Onigo, Bolster, Zone, Uniq, Trapeze, Lucina, Resilio, Tile, Squad, Bold Health, Leika, and Amble. Learn more about these and others at

Valentin Schellhaas

Written by

Founder of, PhD in Psychology; Former Managing Director Experteer, CMO Westwing, Manager Bain & Co