Sunday, July 26, 2009

Living Longer

Longevity ... is it in you?
Do you ramble around your house wondering when it is all going to head south?
Are you going to be self sufficient at age 70, 80, 90 or 100?
Lately, I'm thinking 60 might be a reach. I guess when you're ill or banged up, it makes you wonder a little more about reaching these milestones.
By the middle of this century, six million people are predicted to be living in their 100s on this planet.
By the end of the century, and perhaps much sooner, the life expectancy in this country could end up much older. Of course, that's without something cataclysmic happening.
Today, there are 340,000 over 100 years old on the planet with the highest concentrations in the U.S. and Japan, according to the latest Census Bureau figures. Their numbers are projected to grow at more than 20 times the rates of the total population by 2050, making them the fastest growing age segment.
Genetics along with medical advances and improved diets, which have reduced heart disease and stroke, are the reasons people are living longer.
Throw in cutting edge technology and the fact scientists are making incredible findings regarding the aging process and who knows how old some of us may end up being.
Months ago, while checking out some show on aging, more than one scientist spoke about humans being capable of living 150 or 200 years within the next 50 years.
Can you imagine living 200 years?
I suppose it would be fine, if were talking about quality years. Of course, you might have to have all of your organs replaced (grown at an organ farm) and your bones and muscles would probably need a significant upgrade. And none of us would want to live that long without being sharp mentally.
Japan, with its low-fat staple of fish and rice, is expected to have the most centenarians in 2050 — 627,000, or nearly 1 percent of its total population, according to census estimates. That's incredible.
Japan has a thriving industry which caters to their advancing population. Personally, I think the Japanese treat their elders better than we do as well. They seem to give the proper respect to their elderly population and not cast them aside as so often happens in the U.S.
Here, centenarians are expected to increase from 75,000 to more than 600,000 by 2050. Those hitting and passing the milestone will mostly be baby boomers.
Guess we better get Medicare and Social Security fixed.
That many centenarians also means considerable growth in nursing homes, assisted living centers and retirement centers.
When I moved here after college, I lived with my grandfather. He was 82 and sharp, as he'd always been. I actually did not realize that he was rare in terms of being that age and getting around as well as he did. He lived another three years and outside an ongoing battle with congestive heart failure, was in good health and stayed sharp mentally.
On the other extreme, my father is only 66 and he's completely dependent on care givers for everything. My mother died at age 63.
I don't know what that says about my future, but I sure hope my dominant genes come from my grandfather if you catch my drift.
One thing I'm sure of: Regardless if you live to be 60 or 160, the days get shorter the older you get and the end will be here before you know it.

Copyright 2009 by Christopher Blackburn

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