Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Not all Dogs Live to Be 14

What's up with all these people dying at age 69?

In recent weeks, a number of celebrities have passed away at what today is considered a premature age.   Alan Rickman died at age 69 as did David Bowie.  Glen Fry, of the Eagles, passed away at 67.  Some folks are wondering what the heck is going on?  After all, grandma is holding out at the rest home at age 95, and Keith Richards appears to be permanently pickled.

Once again, this plays into the American mentality about death.   Americans believe that death is a tragedy, instead of an inevitability.   We are trained since birth to believe that "but for" some intervening event, death simply would not occur.   And every so often, on a slow news day, some idiot puts out an article saying that the next generation or our generation or whatever, will be the one to cheat death and figure out immortality (or relative immortality, anyway).

It is, of course, bullshit.  We are born, we live, and we die, and this is by design.   Yes, we have been able to extend life and eliminate a lot of obvious diseases.  But we are a long way off from figuring out how to cheat the grim reaper.   Our bodies, it seems, are programmed to die - to age and then fall apart - once they are beyond child-rearing age.

And a biologist or the like could probably explain this in terms of evolution.   A species of old people would be susceptible to disease, attack, and whatnot.   So it pays, in terms of evolution, to die off early, and have a young and vigorous population.  Unless of course, you are a tortoise or something, and live to be 100 on a regular basis.

The average life expectancy of a human being varies all over the map depending on where you were born, where you live and who you are.   In the US, average life expectancy is about 78 years or so, which is a staggering increase from times past.   It is slightly higher for women than men, whites than for minorities, rich over the poor, and so forth.

But averages, along with other statistics, can be confusing and misinterpreted, as well as abused.   This average includes infant deaths, kids who die in motorcycle accidents at age 18, and folks who get cancer at 30.   Thus, the average age is brought down a bit by those numbers.

As a result, if you are 75 years old, this does not mean you only have three years to live.   Quite the contrary.  For every year you live, your life expectancy gets longer.   If you live to be 75, then you've beaten the odds, so to speak, by not crashing that motorcycle, not dying in the crib, and not getting testicular cancer at age 30.  So the odds are, your life expectancy at this point could be well into your 80's or 90's.

But we are not guaranteed that.   And sadly, I see a lot of people who think that since their folks are still alive and kicking at age 95, then they have nothing to worry about and can put off doing things they want to do in life, as, after all, they have another 20-30 years left, right?

Wrong.   Life expectancy, while it may be related to the life expectancy of your parents, is not guaranteed.  Mark's Mother passed away at age 54.  My sister died as age 53.   My Grandfather at age 50.  Heart disease, cancer, cancer.   You never know how you are going to go - or when.

And sadly, many older people - or even younger ones - fail to account for this in their life plans.  My own Father, well into his 80's, having just recovered from a major heart surgery, said to me, "I'm thinking of buying a condo in Florida, maybe five or ten years from now"  He also thought it was a good time to get a puppy.

I tried to explain to him that the time remaining to him on the planet was not really long enough to be thinking about puppies - which can live to be 15 years old or longer.  And if he wants a Condo in Florida, he should think about buying it now, as five years from now, he might not be ambulatory.

I've been to many a retirement party at GM, UTC, and the Government, where we saw off some oldster who retired after 30 years of service and was lauded and handed a gold watch.   Within a few weeks, we were going to his funeral.  The back pages of RV and Boating magazines are filled with ads stating "Must sell due to illness" - and listing brand-new boats and motorhomes at fire-sale prices.

It all could (and likely will) end tomorrow.  So if you are thinking about "putting off" things in life, because you have time later on, think again.

And if you are tied to a chain of payments and debt that "someday" you will be free of, think about where this is going.   Maybe it is time to make "someday" today, or maybe some time sooner than "eventually".

Because when it gets right down to it, enjoying life is far better than making payments on life.   And quality of life is better than quantity.   You are not guaranteed quantity, either.