150 years old? 112



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Treasurer Joe Hockey recently said that we soon will be able to live 150 years. Now, before we dismiss this as ridiculous, we can agree that life expectancies have definitely increased. Average Australian life expectancies are now over 80, and the trend toward increased life spans is continuing. Whether it’s until 150 years or more we don’t know, but increase they will. So, let’s split the difference between the current average and Joe’s number, and say people will live until 115.

We hear that we can add any number of years to our lives by eating better, stopping smoking, exercising more, so 115 may not be so fanciful. The problem is the years are added on to the last years of life, which are not the same as our middle or younger years. All sorts of things will change or deteriorate: our body shapes, sex drives, skin, fitness, mobility and more. We may be able to add years to our lives, but would we be adding life to our years?

When I was a teenager I believed that if I stayed fit I would live well and longer. I kept in shape as an adult, mostly by running, but as the years went by, I endured niggling injuries which meant a frustrating week or more unable to run. I wondered, what good would old age be if I could no longer run at all, or do other things I love doing?

Well, I’m starting to find out. Although still able to work out at a gym regularly, I no longer run. I am increasingly aware that my body is definitely sagging here and there. I’ve been to the doctor for pre-skin cancer treatments and scans, and am diligent about having regular blood and other tests. I’ve avoided serious illness so far, but at any time the old body (and doctor) could tell me I’m not the healthy kid I once was.

But even if I avoid illness, the quality of my life will also decline with the inevitable change to my physical and, most likely, mental faculties. I love being active – will I love just sitting around watching television? I love socialising with friends, going out to dinner, sharing dinner parties with them. What will my life be like without my friends if they don’t live as long as I do? My wife and I love travelling, but living very long lives means we probably wouldn’t be able to fly overseas anymore. And yes, kids, we still have a healthy sex life, even now in our 60s, but what if that is no longer possible?

Last year Dr Zeke Emmanuel, 57, made waves in America when he said that he wants to die at 75. He is a physically fit hiker and mountain climber who can’t imagine living if he is unable to do what he loves. He does not advocate euthanasia, but he does force us to think about our end of life options. Is the cost of intensive, invasive and interminable medical treatment worth it just to keep us ‘alive’? If – or when – I fall ill, modern medicine, with all its hi-tech advances, may not necessarily provide me a healthy life but rather prolong the process of dying. For many elderly people, and some not so elderly, their bodies are alive, but are they really ‘living’? Will I want to prolong the inevitable if I have an extremely diminished quality of life?

On the other hand, I know a number of people in their late 80s and early 90s who drive, socialise and still have meaningful lives. They are on Facebook, use the internet and are fully aware of their world. If I could know now that I could live like they do, I probably would want to, for as long as possible, to whatever age. But no one knows what the future holds.

So if Joe Hockey is right, maybe you and I will make it to 100, 115 or beyond. I fear, like Doctor Zeke, that my body will be alive – just – and that the pleasure, meaning and satisfaction I experience now in my life will be but a distant memory. So: what to do?

Well, I’ll keep living each day as fully as I can. I’ll try to keep fit, active and connected to others as much as, and as long as, I can. It may not add years to my life, but more importantly it will mean good, quality years now.

And if at the end all I can do is recall good memories of a life well lived, perhaps that will be reason enough to keep on living.

Would you like to live until 115? What do you think your quality of life would be like? Tell us below.

Zvi Civins

Zvi is a 62 year old retired educator who is now enjoying the time to read, garden, exercise, volunteer and travel. He is looking forward to sharing his stories with the Starts at Sixty community and all of the discussions around them.

  1. If I presume, his premise was based on the fact that as more of us are living to a 100 now in a few years time that will become 150. I disagree. History shows us that we have always had the capacity to live to 100 +/- 10 years. Very few of us did and with the advent of clean water, medical improvements, better sewerage containment etc, many more of us are achieving that capacity. But it is finite – we haven’t extended the organism called human beyond that capacity, just given more us a chance to reach it.

    1 REPLY
  2. I only want to be here if I can still at least enjoy conversations, read, laugh and use wisdom learnt from years alive to inspire ( not preach). I never want to be a burden.

  3. I think you’re right. It’s hard, but when you’re over 60 you’re speeding downhill. I’m in my 60s and it recently occurred to me that my life is mostly over. This freaked me out at first but now I accept that. I don’t want to live being completely dependent on support systems or have people doing things for me that I should be able to do myself. To each his own but I’d rather shuffle off as an individual rather than a case number.

  4. Hockey is trying to see 150 years into the future, this is coming from a man who is not capable of seeing this distress and trauma in this country now. People are living on the streets, they can’t afford high rents as well as food and utilities. We have more elderly living on the streets than we have ever had. They waste money on what many of us consider to be trash, this Knight and Dames is an example. NO Baby Boomer will ever live to be 150

  5. It will never happen in our lifetime and perhaps not even the life time of our children’s children. Living is one thing, being old and a vegetable is another.. no thanks

    3 REPLY
    • what makes you think you will be a vegetable ? I’m 71 and work out at the local Gym the most of the 20-25 year olds cant match the workout I do . a famous man once said . Weather you think you can, or think you can’t, you will be right . its all in the mind if you refuse to be OLD you will stay young .

    • It’s not about mindset, it is about HEALTH. If you lose your eyesight or use of your senses, what is the point of living to be 115? It is all about QUALITY of life!

  6. I don’t want a huge quantity of life if I can’t have quality of life! (Regardless of what Joe thinks!)
    I do think that within the next couple of generations many more people will be living much longer. There are a very few now who almost make it to 120 ………

  7. When you apply for work, you are asked “What are your Goals”.
    Mine were always to earn an honest living, now at 60 My goal is to live to retirement. I don’t want a lot out of life. I have my family and good friends and that is really enough for me. Sure we all want things a little easier, but be happy with your lot.
    As for Mr Hockey’s statements, I believe he is totally out of touch with the ordinary everyday Aussie. Good luck at the next election, I have lost the respect I had for him. They all (positions) should get out amongst the ordinary people and then they might learn something

  8. My Great Aunt lived to 105. She had all her faculties until the last couple of years and then she lost most of her hair and wore a little night cap, and became very deaf and just like in the films ,she had a trumpet,which I’m told even when bellowing down it, caused much hilarity because of misinterpretation! Anyway, people always asked her what it felt like to be that old, and she always replied with “well, please don’t ask me how old I am,as it’s too hard to work out, and my spirit is still that of a child,and I love every minute of my life”. I hope if I ever get to that sort of age I still stay young at heart, like she did.

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