Can you imagine yourself as a really, really old person? I'm talking really old, like 100 years or beyond? In fact it's not only possible you could hit the century mark, your chances are actually increasing.
According to the Foundation For Health In Aging, if you were born in 1899, your chances of living to 100 were 400 to 1. If you were born in 1980, your chances increased to 87 to 1. By 2030, 20% of the U.S. population will be 65 or older. And this phenomenon is not restricted to the U.S. In other developed countries such as Japan, Italy, Germany, Sweden and the U.K. the proportion of seniors to the rest of the population is even greater.
Welcome to Geezerdom, land of the Geezers, where the state of being really old is known as "Geezage". Since I am one, I can use this term with impunity. It's meant as a term of endearment. Well, kind of.
We're already seeing scores of feisty seniors protesting in the town hall meetings this month. (In my last post, we launched an "August Reform" movement wherein for "national security" reasons, we declared August officially dumped from the calendar. Get up to speed here.)
Can you imagine what it's going to be like when the world is taken over by the Geezer Mafia with an axe to grind? Today's health care reform protesters will look like pishers compared to what's coming down the pike.
One of the most dramatic changes among seniors of the future will be their level of education. By 2030, 84% of seniors will have completed high school and 24% will have a bachelor's degree, compared to 15% with a college degree today. Higher levels of education are associated with higher income, better levels of health and lower levels of disability.
Guess what else? These educated seniors will be very comfortable with cutting edge technology. They will have grown up with the Internet and smart phones and have ready access to an infinite number of information resources. They will be well informed and likely to be much more demanding healthcare consumers than the seniors we see protesting today. In fact, I suspect they'll be much more demanding of everything. Fasten your seatbelts. The Geezers are coming!
President Obama is a perfect example of the kind of senior we can look forward to in 2030, when he'll be 69 yrs. old. Take a look around at the 30-40 Something's today. They'll be the generation on deck to lead the charge for the seniors of the future. I have two daughters in that generation. HuffPost bloggers Kari Henley, Jason Mannino, and Eli Davidson are in that generation. If the rest of the pack is anything like them, Geezerdom is going to be in good hands.
Young people have a hard time contemplating old age. Heck, I'm old and I still don't get it! Some day, the "youngsters" will join the ranks of Geezerdom, so best to plan for it now by adopting some lifestyle behaviors that help increase longevity.
In case you're up for living to 100, here are some tips from the
UK Times Online on How To Increase Your Lifespan:
1. Be married or live with a partner - add 1 year
2. Maintain a healthy weight - add 6 years (A healthy BMI level is between 18.5 and 25)
3. Be a non-smoker - add 10 years
4. Spend at least 15 minutes/day laughing- add 8 years (I guess laughter really IS the best medicine!)
5. Be a woman - add 3.3 years (Sorry men, women tend to outlive men by around 10 %)
6. Clear out the clutter - add 1 year (People who live in jumble and chaos are more likely to feel stressed and depressed.)
7. Eat a nutritious, balanced diet - add 6.6 years (Daily consumption of garlic, wine, vegetables, fruits, almonds and get this, dark chocolate)
8. Eat meat no more than once a week - add 3.6 years
9. Have a positive outlook - add 9 years
(Studies have shown that those with an optimistic outlook are less prone to viruses and recover quicker from illnesses and injuries. These people tend to act in 'healthier' ways than negative people by taking more exercise and enjoying social activities.)
10. Attend church regularly - add 3 years
(According to the University of Pittsburgh, people who attend weekly religious services can expect to live around three years longer than non-attenders.)
11. Get at least 6-7 hours sleep/night - add 5 years
(Poor sleep can contribute to a number of medical factors which can put people at risk of heart disease.)
12. Floss your teeth daily - add 6 years
(Flossing removes harmful bacteria that can contribute to cardiovascular disease.)
13. Get a pet - add 2 years
(Research shows that people with pets are less likely to suffer from depression and visit their doctors less often than those without. It is also said that stroking a pet can reduce blood pressure and stress levels.)
According to this list, I might expect to live for another 48 years! Oy vey! I better stop flossing. I don't think I can handle sticking around that much longer.
"Not to worry", Darren Dicks, head of annuities at Norwich Union, says: "While we aren't really suggesting that someone adopting all of these practices will automatically add more than 70 years to their life, our research shows that broadly speaking these activities will have an effect on life expectancy."
Whew! For a minute there, I thought I might be doomed to living forever.
I've actually thought about this subject quite a bit. I'm 67 years old. My mother lived to 91. Her sister lived to 100. Conceivably, I could expect to be around for another 30 years or more. The questions is, do I want to live that long?
How can the planet sustain us all if we keep extending the life expectancy? Don't we have some kind of duty to vacate the premises at a certain point? I'm not talking "death panels", but I think we Geezers ought to be willing to make room for everyone else to take a crack at it and not push this life expectancy thing too far.
I got into a discussion about this with a friend who had this fantasy: we should have an agreement that everyone gets to live to 80 and then they "graduate". There would be no drama around it; it would just be the way it is.
Think about it. You could more easily plan your finances since you'd know exactly how long you were going to need them. You could choose to retire with enough years left to enjoy your life and be fully present knowing precisely how much time you have left. You could plan your "graduation". Throw a big party, invite all your friends, have the "time of your life" and say sayonara at the end. What a way to go! Sign me up.
One thing old age will never change however. A woman can still change her mind. Just in case I change mine, I'm going to keep flossing, get more sleep, eat more dark chocolate and I might even consider getting a pet.
What about you? Do you want to live to be 100? If so, what's your vision for yourself as a "Geezer"? What's your solution for the Geezage over-population problem?
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I'm off until after Labor Day, see you in September.
Blessings on the path.
Follow Dr. Judith Rich on Twitter: www.twitter.com/dr_judithrich