A headline in our morning newspaper caught my eye (yes, ole newspaper editor that I am, I still read real, hold-in-your-hands newspapers). It read, “Would you want to live to be 120?”
This was the second or third time recently I’d read articles about scientists predicting by the year 2050, average Americans will live to 120. Wow! Today, we still recognize people that live to be 100. Imagine another 40 years or so when 100 would be “middle-aged”!
This particular piece said one person to date has lived to be 122, a Jeanne Calment who died in 1997. I once knew someone claiming to be 122, but he really was only 61. His life had been such a struggle, it just seemed like he’d lived twice as long.
The article predicted greatly increased human longevity could be achieved through “radical life extension,” a combination of science, technology, and theory of living, to push the limits of the human lifespan. Sound good to you?
Right now, this question – would you want to live to be 120? – seems the stuff of fantasy for most of us, but it’s still valid to consider. If you could, would you want to live that long?
Before giving my own answer (should you even care), let’s consider a few things. For instance, if the point of living is to postpone death as long as possible, then many people probably would say yes. As someone has said, “No one gets out of this life alive,” so if you can delay the inevitable, why not, right?
Then again, we’d have to assume that current maladies like Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, severe arthritis, diabetes and other diseases that wither body, mind and spirit would have to be overcome. Spending 40 or more years in a care facility with less than full mental faculties and being totally dependent on someone else for routine tasks like eating and changing clothes doesn’t sound like a lot of fun.
Now that I’ve just arrived at Medicare age, I already have joints that are prone to get sore, aches and pains that I didn’t experience even 10 years ago. How would I feel 50 or 60 years from now? Would I have to become a bionic man, with every part replaced or refurbished just to get through a normal day?
At present, still being of sound mind (some might disagree!) and feeling like I’m still making a positive contribution to society (some people that have read this blog might really disagree!), life’s good. But 10, 20 or more years from now – who knows?
If people lived longer, their work lives might be extended as well – perhaps to age 80 or 90. Today’s ideal of retiring at 65 would be obsolete. That certainly could ease the Social Security crisis. But how would it affect things like life insurance policies and premiums, or senior citizen discounts?
A study conducted by the Pew Research Center’s Religion & Public Life Project determined nearly 70 percent of adults questioned would like to reach ages between 79 and 100. Almost all of them, I’ve heard, agreed with Woody Allen, who once said, “I’m not afraid of dying. I just don’t want to be there when it happens.”
But once again: Would you want to live to be 120? My answer? No. Definitely not.
Not only because I wouldn’t want to exist as an addled, helpless senior-senior citizen. Even if I could enjoy reasonably good health and a clear mind, I wouldn’t want to live that long. Why? Because I’m convinced this life is not the destination – it’s only a brief sojourn, preparation for the main event.
That’s not to say I’m planning to depart soon, but if that were to be the case, I believe I’d be ready. I faced that possibility seven years ago before my open-heart surgery, and by the time the day for my operation arrived felt ready to stay or go – whichever way God decided.
Pondering this reminds me of Titus 2:13, which states, “while we wait for the blessed hope – the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.” This “blessed hope” – what’s it all about? I’m looking forward to finding out.
And 1 Corinthians 2:9 declares, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived, what God has prepared for those that love him.” Why doesn’t this passage give more specifics on what we can expect? I think it’s because the finite, time-locked human mind can’t begin to comprehend the infinite and eternal. Just because we can’t understand it, that doesn’t mean it’s not there.
So even if given the opportunity, I really wouldn’t want to live to be 120. If the life to come is as great as advertised, I don’t want to wait another 55 years to check it out!
Robert J. Tamasy is a veteran journalist, a former newspaper editor and magazine editor. He is presently vice president of communications for Leaders Legacy, Inc., a non-profit focused on mentoring and coaching business and professional leaders. Bob has written hundreds of magazine articles, and has authored, co-authored and edited more than 15 books. These include “Tufting Legacies,” “The Heart of Mentoring,” “Business at Its Best,” and “Pursuing Life With a Shepherd’s Heart.” He edits a weekly business meditation, “Monday Manna,” which is translated into more than 20 languages and distributed via email around the world by CBMC International. He also posts regularly on two blogs, www.bobtamasy.blogspot.com, and www.bobtamasy.wordpress.com. He can be emailed at email@example.com.