Aug. 12--In May, National Geographic explored just how long we humans might
actually be able to live.
Doing everything right, the number appears to be about 120 years. On its cover,
over the photo of an infant, it proclaimed, "This Baby Will Live to Be 120."
Obviously, we aren't doing everything right.
Just attend any class's 50th high school reunion and answer this: Do those 68
year olds look like they've only recently hit the peak of their physical prowess
and are just now started on the downslope? And if you are a classmate, what do
they think of you?
Someone from the Pew Research Center must have just returned from such a
reunion, and got to thinking, just how long do people really want to live?
It turns out most of us would like to beat the current odds, even if we really
don't want to admit it and even if we see problems for society if we do.
The expected lifespan of a male born in the U.S. today is about 10 years longer
-- 76.2 years -- than the 65.6 years it is for a male who was born on the
leading edge of the baby boom generation 60 years ago. The difference is about
the same for females, born today, 81 years; born in 1950, 71.1 years.
Most of us say we think the ideal age to live to is somewhere between 80 and
100. But we think that person over there would probably want to live to 120, if
No doubt most of us fear aging much beyond 90 because we really don't have much
in the way of role models. And the ones we do have involve a lot of sickness and
loss of independence and dignity.
Creating better role models is going to be up to the younger, healthier adults
now reaching what was once middle-age.
They have learned to deal with the gradual lengthening of their offspring's
childhood and its dependencies into the late 20s. They are learning to deal with
their own multiple cycles of career and re-education as jobs evaporate and are
reborn saturated in new technology. As a society, we will be faced with adults
not nearly ready to retire at 65 and looking for new and different challenges.
We will need to create new narratives on how to live to 65 and beyond, how to
imagine and plan for another 60 years, individually, as a society and as an
That baby will grow up quickly.
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