I’m a boomer, about two thirds of the way through my allotted span. I’m going to do better than three score and ten, but I’m not sure I’m going to do 150 years. They say the first person who will live that long is already 50. I’m almost 60, but maybe that means I’m looking at 120 sailing seasons.
The Pew Poll recently surveyed Americans on whether they wanted to live to 120, which is apparently within reach. Most didn’t want to but thought others might. When CARP members were polled on the same question, few wanted this boon, but few also thought others would want it.
Of course the most important thing about growing very old (we’re all going to make 100 at least, us Boomers) is that the extra years have to be good ones. When we only lived to 50 or 60, cancer didn’t have a chance to cut us down first. Now, with all the carcinogens we have inserted into our biostream, cancer is more likely than not likely. And it’s going to have years and years to get us.
Still, there are those who will dodge that bullet, and those people want to be able to be 100 and happy, not 100 and held together with surgical tape and Ensure. We’re on the right road, with our (relative) emphasis on healthy eating, and moderate exercise. Also, we have lives we’re proud of, and that’s the most important life-extension factor, self-esteem and interest in life.
So what will we do from, say, 85 to 100, the years our parents didn’t have? Travel for one. The world is becoming a more civilized place every year, and travel for geriatrics will be even more popular than it is now. Comfort travel, big ships, big airplanes with beds, trains, lots of porters and golfcarts. Some of this travel will be for medical reasons. India will be a very popular place to get transplants and orthopedic surgery.
Second careers as bloggers, writers, content creators of all kinds will be popular. We’ll have stories to tell, and the skills to tell them. This goes for music and art as well, cinema, drama, even dance. Lawyers will work pro bono for environmental causes, accountants will steer non-profits. Teachers will work in troubled neighbourhoods, doctors will call on other seniors.
Non-demanding sporting pursuits will flourish. Many will have the opportunity and the time to finally become scratch golfers, and the Masters will be the most popular sporting event in the world. I’m biased, but sailing is something you can do almost until you’re in a wheelchair. Fly-fishing, flying for that matter. How many Boomers have said to themselves “I’m going to get my pilot’s license when I have the time”?
The last few years are the problem. No matter how healthy we are, the decline will set in and we’ll fall apart. That’s where legal physician-assisted suicide comes in. 70% of Canadians want it, and 70% of CARP members. Our leaders, though, won’t touch it by remote control from a bunker in Brazil. They have constituents, very vocal ones, and until this group feels the pangs of a life lived too long, there will be little official consensus on this issue.
But society operates differently than the law, more organically. Assisted demise will be available widely, not spoken of and organized on a communal, volunteer basis. In other words, it will develop as an organic social construct. The law will just have to catch up.
The other necessity is money. Very few of us have enough saved to live to 70, let alone 100. By the time we get there, though, we can hope Canada will have replaced our patchwork of social supports and pensions with a Guaranteed Annual Minimum Income, and as long as you’re breathing, you’ll have enough to live comfortably. Living well, on the other hand, is up to us. It’s a good thing it’s just a state of mind.
And the end? JRR Tolkein wrote: “The end? Death isn’t the end. It’s just another journey we all must take. The grey rain curtains of this world part and all turns to silver clouds. Then you see it. White shores, and beyond, a far green country under a swift sunrise”.
That’s not so bad, is it?