ALL THINGS considered, I would prefer to live longer. Of course, it helps if you are in pretty decent nick: things aren’t dropping off, the body and mind still works even though both are getting slower.
New global health research published in The Lancet journal shows that we are living longer although not necessarily in better health. The study of health and death in 188 countries, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, reveals that men and women in 2013 were living six years longer than in 1990 but with more years of illness or disability. Life expectancy on a global basis has risen from 65.3 years in 1990 to 71.5 years in 2013.
Now I don’t think that’s good enough, given that I’m bang on 71.5 years right now. I’m not sure a six year advance over a quarter of a century is sufficient return for the medical, scientific and technological advances that have been made in that time. If we can land men on the moon, probe the mysteries of Pluto, achieve marked decline in deaths from HIV/AIDS and malaria, then we should be better able to keep the functions of the body in better shape.
If I’m going to live Four Scores Years then I want to live them doing much the same as I was doing in my prime years. Yes, yes, I know that much of this is down to lifestyle choice, but I would prefer the medical world to perform miracles.
Like all Baby Boomers and Pre-Boomers I grew up watching Star Trek where the Starship Enterprise doctor, Bones McCoy, would diagnose any health problems with a quick ultrasound scan of the body and then inject a wonder drug with a hypospray – no needles, no surgery, no new bits. When there were new bits, they were add-ons. Remember the visor which restored sight to a blind crew member?
Fortunately, those of us in the First World enjoy a better prospect than the global figures revealed in The Lancet. Australia ranks well with life expectancy for males at 79.9 years and females at 84.3 years in 2012. If we want to beat that, then I need to move to Iceland (81.6 years) and my wife to Japan (86.4 years).
Such is the endurance of the oldies in Japan that it’s posing a problem for the government which traditionally honours centenarians with a silver sake cup and a congratulatory letter from the prime minister. Alas, the soaring numbers achieving this milestone has attracted the attention of the cost cutters who have suggested a cheaper version or even scrapping the gift.
At the latest count, there were nearly 59,000 centenarians in Japan, up from 153 in 1963 when the silver sake cup was introduced.
In Commonwealth countries, attainment of 100 years is honoured with a letter from the Queen. By the time I get there, it will probably be a 25-word tweet because Buckingham Palace can’t afford the postage stamp.