Anti aging guide

Adding Extra Years to Our Lifespan



Is it really a good thing that we are able to live longer?

The answer is, it all depends. If we are simply fulfilling our rightful lifespan and remaining fitter until the end, that must be good. If we are adding extra years to that lifespan, and those years are years of dependency and incapacity, few would welcome such an addition. Unfortunately, there is some evidence that the latter is a truer picture of events than the former. A study of the records of over 24,000 admissions to long-term geriatric hospital care over a period of 32 years in Belfast revealed, encouragingly, that the average age on admission rose steadily throughout this period, suggesting a rise in active life expectancy. Less encouraging was the finding that the length of hospital stay increased, and still less, the rise in the proportion of the total lifespan spent in long-term care. This suggests that the more people in their 90s there are, the more invalids there are, and this has been called ‘the failure of our success’.

Eric Midwinter, formerly Director of the Center for Policy on Ageing, has defined the four ages of man. The first is ‘childhood and social apprenticeship; the second age of work and parenting; the third age of the independent pinnacles of life beyond paid work and raising a family; the fourth age that of dependence and ultimately, death.’ He champions the cause of a ‘long, happy and glorious third age, with the fourth age put off for as lengthy a time as possible and then itself being brief, merciful and painless.’ Few would disagree.

Our chances of enjoying a third age

Peter Laslett, the social historian and director of the Rank Xerox Unit on Ageing at Cambridge, has tried to quantify the chance of someone who has reached the age of 25, which he arbitrarily takes as the start of the second age, reaching 70, which he regards as a point in our life when we might have enjoyed some years in the third age in the company of others. This chance is fairly readily calculated by dividing the number of persons surviving to the age of 70 by the number surviving to 25. He calls this figure the third age indicator, and in the UK in 1981-83 it was 0.779 for women and 0.634 for men. In 1901, it was 0.456 for women and 0.375 for men. It was not until 1950 that a figure of 0.5 was surpassed by males in France, the USA, and the UK, although their counterparts in New Zealand had done so in 1901 and countries such as Mexico and Japan were only some ten years behind. The third age is here to stay as an important part of our lives, and the sooner society and the individual takes cognizance of the fact the better.

The global perspective of an aging population

Numbers of older people are set to rise in the developing nations as well as in the western world, and birth-rates are likely to decline to a variable and rather unpredictable extent. The predicted world population pyramid will begin to assume the European shape, but the European nations are on the whole anticipating a smaller increase in their elderly populations than are the Asian and American peoples. The equitable allocation of resources to support the more dependent citizens of some of these countries is likely to be a major political and economic challenge.

Posted by Carol Hudgens - March 25, 2012 at 5:01 am