WOULD YOU LIKE TO LIVE TO BE 100

January 26, 2018


Jeanne Calment was a typical woman of her time. Born in Arles, France, in 1875, she lived a rather unremarkable life by most accounts — except for one thing. When she died in 1997 at the age of 122, she was on record as the oldest person to have ever lived. “I just kept getting older and couldn’t help it,” she once said.

So, what does the extraordinary life of this ordinary woman have to do with us today? More than you might think. In her day, living to be one hundred was extremely rare. But today in the United States, people one hundred and over represent the second-fastest-growing age group in the country. The fastest? Just think of that.  Many sixty-five-year-olds today will live well into their 90s.

Think of it another way: A ten-year-old child today — maybe your grandchild — has a fifty (50) percent chance of living to age of one hundred and four.  Some demographers have even speculated that the first person ever to live to be one hundred and fifty (150) is alive today.

I’m not suggesting that we should expect to live to one hundred and twenty-two (122), but as individuals and as a society, we need to prepare for a time when it is common to live to one hundred (100). We have to create a new mind-set around aging and solutions for helping us to live better as we live longer — what is called  Disrupt Aging. There are three areas where this is really important: health, wealth and self.

HEALTH:  As we think about living to one hundred (100), we simply cannot continue doing the same things we’ve been doing with regard to health. Our health has more to do with the choices we make each day in how we live our lives than it has to do with an occasional visit to the doctor’s office. We’re beginning to embrace a new vision and a new culture of health that focus more on preventing disease and emphasize well-being throughout our lives.  How many Big Mac’s have you had this week? President Trump is said to drink six to eight Diet Cokes PER DAY.  When was the last time you exercised?  How about reducing your stress level? ( Let me mention right now that I’m singing to the choir. I probably need to look in a mirror before launching this post.)  Back in March of 2017, I had a hip replacement.  My recovery, for my age, is right on target.  I know several friends who have had hip, knee, shoulder and even one ankle replacement.  What ails us, if it’s skeletal, can probably be fixed.  The cardiovascular is much more tricky and requires constant vigilance, but it can be done.

WEALTH:  One of the things people fear most about living longer is that they will outlive their money. Unfortunately, for many this fear is a very real one, especially for many younger people who tend to view saving for retirement as an exercise in futility. My mom and dad did just that as a result, I’m still working.  I enjoy working so it’s not drudgery day after day but I’m certainly old enough to retire. Then again, I just replaced the starter on my truck–$598.00. The range in our kitchen was definitely on it’s last legs and I do mean last legs.  Have you bought one of those lately? Go rob a bank.   My parents ran out of money and had to survive on Social Security and a reverse mortgage.  Not good. I would recommend to anyone—look carefully at the reverse mortgage before you sign on the dotted line.   What if instead of saving for retirement, we think of saving to do the things we’ve always wanted to do? In other words, saving not for the absence of financial hardship but for the means to thrive and be able to afford to live the life you want to live — saving for life.  The golden rule here is—-start early—even if it means a few dollars per month.

SELF:  Finally, we need to challenge outdated attitudes and stereotypes about aging. Research shows that our self-perceptions of aging influence not only how we age, but also our health status as we get older. More positive self-perceptions of aging are associated with living longer with less disability.

We need to get rid of the outdated stereotypes about aging and spark new solutions, so more of us can choose how we want to live as we age. For young people, living to one hundred is not a pipe dream, it’s a real possibility. And it’s up to us to help them realize and prepare for it, because Jeanne Calment’s strategy of just getting older because she “couldn’t help it” isn’t going to cut it.

You can see from the chart below—we are living longer. It’s going to happen and with the marvelous medical treatment we have today, one hundred year is not that far-fetched.

 

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