Old Age or Good Health: Which Would You Prefer?

Old Age or Good Health: Which Would You Prefer?I don’t know about you, but it only seems feasible to me that, if I am going to live to an older age, I would like to do so in good enough health to enjoy it. I just can’t see living to be 150 years old while being confined to a bed, in pain, or unaware of what is going on around me as anything to look forward to. On the reverse, since medical achievements, improved hygiene, and nutrition have increased our life expectancy to about 80 years old, can we look forward to aging without its devastating effects?

To me it is amazing that, just 100 years ago, the average life expectancy was only 47 years old, while today some are predicting that humans in the future could live for 120 years or more. These same predictors seem to indicate that, with the use of “high-tech” solutions, the average life expectancy could soon reach 90 years old. Which brings me to the question: old age or good health — which would you prefer?

In the science community, the intricacies of DNA and stem cell research along with other studies involving biodynamics may be poised to boost longevity. However, this longevity may not be the direct result of scientists directly working on extending life, but rather on their efforts to treat and cure such maladies as cancer, heart disease, and diabetes, all of which claim a huge number of lives very year. This means that the direct result of their work is added life expectancy.

Unfortunately for those living today, this research may not find the answers needed in time, but the United Nations estimates that, within the next century, life for women in developed countries could actually hit 100 years old, with women in undeveloped countries making it to 90 years old. It must be noted, however, that this life extension is dependent on anticipated improvements in medical treatment and procedures as well as high-tech fixes.

Some of these long anticipated improvements are expected to come about as the result of stem cell research. This research, while a hotly contested political issue, has for the last decade or so been at the forefront of scientific study. In these studies, scientists have been experimenting with using stem cells to either repair or replace damaged cells in animal test subjects. The results have been amazing with researchers claiming to have successfully used stem cell replacements and variants to repair tissues in the heart, liver, and organs of animals. It has even been suggested that some scientists have progressed to using human test subjects. In these cases, they have claimed that they were successfully able to grow human bladders and urethras from stem cells and implant them into their human guinea pigs.

If these scientists are allowed to continue their research, it could mean cures for such dreaded maladies as Parkinson’s disease and Lou Gehrig’s disease. If such cures are possible, then we humans may be faced with the question: How long do we want to live?

This question was posed in a non-scientific survey to some 30,000 respondents, resulting in the following conclusions:

  • 80 years old — 58.76%
  • 120 years old — 29.42%
  • 150 years old — 9.69%
  • Forever — 2.13%

These results are interesting, but are based solely on how long one would like to live, not on what type of health one would have at that older age. In other words, would the person answering the survey provide the same answer if they knew what their physical condition would be at that age? Would a long life be worth it if one were in bad health or if the person were in constant pain? Should we assume that science will come up with dramatic new anti-aging technologies or a medical fountain of youth? Should we assume that old age will also mean good health?

What are the social impacts of increasing life expectancy to 100 years or longer? Could it be the burden that will break the camel’s back? Can we, as a country that is already struggling with the costs of providing medical coverage for our seniors, continue to provide it as our baby boomer generation turns 65, then 85, then 100 years old? With birth rates declining, what happens if the next generation lives even longer? Who is going to pay for their medical care, nursing home needs, and medications?

I believe that this is really something that should be well planned and, while some believe that living longer may have its benefits, I personally challenge these assumptions for several reasons. First, if one has seen older people who are suffering from serious illnesses, these folks seem to want to die. It is not because they have given up on life, but it is because they have accepted death. They have made peace with themselves and have hope of a better life beyond the grave. Though this concept may seem odd to some who may be reading this article, others will understand completely.

What do you think? How long do you wish to live?

Share your thoughts with us.

Comments, as always, are welcome.

Source: NY Times

Source: When I’m 164

CC licensed Flickr photo above shared by wallyg

Article Written by

I have been writing for Lockergnome for eight years.

  • Dallin Crump

    On Labor Day, I went to visit my 92-year-old great-grandfather in an assisted living facility. He’s been in and out of the hospital many times over the past couple of years and his body is clearly starting to shut down. He has difficulty breathing and is in constant pain. It’s difficult to see someone you love dearly go through that . I can tell he’s almost ready to let go, but he’s also scared. I don’t know what I’d do if I were in his place, but I wouldn’t want to be in pain all the time and just waiting for the inevitable. I suppose the answer to your question is different for everyone – and that’s really the way it should be.

    • D Lowrey

      Dallin…I’ve been thinking about this situation myself for a while. Personally…I don’t fear death…since everyone I know will experience it one day. Then with the economy the way it is and older I get with no family or good friends to speak of…death is just a release from the problems I’ve experienced in this life. I see it as a plus…no more bills…no more worrying and for myself…no one will even remember me in 20 years or less. I know it may not help in your grandfather’s case with the way I feel…but we all will pass on…so make sure that people remember your grandfather for the good he did in this life and laugh about the times you and they had together. If all of you can laugh…that was a life worth having lived.

  • http://twitter.com/gokuu9000 Conal Duffy

    i would prefer good health.

  • Dravack

    I’d go for longer life and hopefully a robot/cyborg body XD best of both worlds.

  • dean

    id rather a good life til im at least 60 rather than a life of suffering go in and out of hospitals that’s not living that’s a curse as Albert Einstein once said “true religion is real living with all ones soul with all goodness and righteousness* that is what i believe to be true live being able to get up in the morning not being shipped into hospital because you can barely stand on your own feet its not living it’s being a life their a difference

  • http://bkgcom.blogspot.in/ Bharat Kumar Gupta

    Forever — 2.13% – lol, what?

    like chris said i would like to live healthier + happier then live longer, and pay attention to what i eat and exercise + work adequately, staying healthy organically is a challenge but i accept it and i m committed to it. I have also learned from his blog that incremental achievements in health is a natural order then expecting magical results overnight.

    lastly yes nothing is planned i hope i m good on this planet, no complains and what ever i live be a quality and meaningful life.

  • D Lowrey

    The one thing I didn’t notice in your article is most/all of the persons who reach 100+ years of age have seen everyone they have known during their lifetime die. Those who can cope with this very real situation would do well living as long as they would like or could. Another thing which wasn’t mentioned was with the fundamentalists doing everything they can to destroy the social safety net…how will someone be able to really enjoy life unless they are independently wealthy? Thirdly…if life is difficult enough at 50 or 60…who’s to say that Soylent Green isn’t going to be in your future if you’re poor and in ill health…no matter what science believes it can do?

  • stone crow

    Methus’lah lived nine hundred years, Methus’lah lived nine hundred years,
    But who calls dat livin’ When no gal will give in
    To no man what’s nine hundred years ?
    (“aint necessarily so” Porgy&Bess, Gershwins)
    even if one could do one arm push-ups ala Jack Palance in his 70’s, exude the vitality of Jack Lalane and Charles Atlas – wait. they are all now dead – … does good health include producing a penile erection and seminal fluid with or without a female partner as Palance suggested at that Oscars night? otherwise the demand for ED remedies? how inclusive is your vision for good health versus longevity.

  • Cosdis

    I like to see how the world changes through the years so i choose to live longer.

  • http://twitter.com/LindaBl63487293 Linda Blair

    I don’t know why you ask for either. It would be both or none. I don’t care what age I’d be if I had bad health, I might not want to live. There are plenty of people who are old in good health. My 87 year old friend spends the winter skiing …bikes and walks daily, has a young wife. There are many like him on the ski slopes in the winter. They had to cut the discounts they gave those over 80 as there were too many of them.