Even if we wanted to, there is no way we will get out of here alive. However, through medical science our time on earth has been extended by many years. The question is how long can and should life be extended?
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At the beginning of the last century, the average lifespan for Americans was 47.3 years. By 1950 that jumped to an average age of 68.2. Today, we can expect to reach age 78.6, but women outlive men by 5.5 years, 81.2 versus 75.7 respectively. And, by 2030 (the year all Baby Boomers will be 65 or older) the US average lifespan will reach 81.2. However, by that time, women are expected to live less than 4 years longer than men.
But there’s much more to the subject than statistics. New Seniors, those 65+, have firsthand experience that America is living longer. Many of us got to be introduced to our great grandparents and most of us grew up having grandparents in our lives. Probably we did not pay much attention to this phenomenon, but we did benefit from the mere fact that it happened. Now, as we reach the next phase of our lives, the subject of life expectancy has become more personal.
The life expectancy numbers improve at birth because infant mortality rates have improved markedly in the past century. Childhood disease in this country, such as scarlet fever and polio, have been controlled to the point were reaching adulthood is a better bet than ever before. The deadly diseases such as cancer, diabetes, coronary and even AIDS have been arrested while not being eradicated. And, death by influenza, the plague and dysentery are no longer a threat to most of our population.
So upon reaching 65 the majority of us are in pretty good shape, especially if we have watched our diets, exercise and have regular physical checkups. Even with once fatal or debilitating illnesses, there are treatments that allow people to live longer, more productive and comfortable lives. Nonetheless, all good things must come to an end, and that’s were the debate centers.
Some experts believe aging is a natural part of living. They suggest every one over 65 has one or more disorders or diseases that must be addressed now or in the future. As symptoms for these issues arise, specialists should be called in to deal with each individual problem with the family doctors acting as coordinators and overseers of the patients’ wellbeing. Another group takes the holistic approach and treats aging as the disease with the various conditions that occur being part of this disease.
Either way, we are not going to get younger, so New Seniors will have to let those following us be the guinea pigs. In the meantime, if you want to live longer you could move to any of 20 countries with longer life expectancies than the US. Or you could move to a location in this country that you don’t like. This won’t extend life, but it will sure seem like it got longer. Better yet, spend as much time as possible with those you love and your life will be richer and more enjoyable. Isn’t that what it’s all about?