The April 28, 2014 issue of People Magazine has a human interest story called “Unbreakable Bond.” It’s about three sisters, each more than 100 years old, and their reunion – after not seeing each other for more than ten years. These remarkable women made me wonder about this thing we call … longevity.
My parents lived into their late nineties. They were hard working, took care of themselves, and were true to their value systems. It appears the genes are there for me, but I don’t have a guarantee I’ll see those numbers. There’s the chance of accident. Of disease. Of a catastrophe from Mother Nature … or my fellow man.
Then I wondered about the possibility of living to be a century or more old. It would be exciting to see the steps forward of civilization, to experience the different upcoming “Ages” of progress. It would be fulfilling to watch family grow, multiply, and achieve. New medical advances would continue to extend life and provide cures for previously fatal illnesses.
An article in Huffpost Healthy Living, May 2, 2014 reports that the average U.S. life expectancy ranks 26th in the world – 76 for men and 81 for women. However, people are living longer than this statistic indicates. Recently, Lesley Stahl did a segment on 60 Minutes called “90+” which examined this fast growing segment of our population.
What ever age we live to be, quality of life can’t be ignored. For me, quality is staying independent and living in my own home for as long as possible. It’s having the joy and fun of interacting with family and friends. Next would be having good care when it becomes necessary, either “in a home” or at home. I would pray to keep my faculties. That being said, for when things get dicey, an Advanced Directive is a good idea.
But what keeps people going? We know the will to live can be a driving force. I’m thinking of our nephew, a heart transplant survivor. His inner spirit, his thoughtfulness and kindness to others, the joy he takes in life and in people, keep him looking forward, despite periodic health challenges.
Another trait which keeps people going is having a purpose in life, such as family or achievement of goals. Novelist Nancy Horan tells the story of Robert Louis Stevenson in the book Under the Wide and Starry Sky. Stevenson suffered from life-threatening lung disease, but made himself write even when he was gravely ill. This was well before the ease of writing on a computer.
No matter how we look at it and what we do, our destiny seems to be up to fate, to chance, to God. Genes, life-style, medical advances, quality, will to live, productivity, and attitude all factor in. Some of these items we can do something about. Others we can’t. It comes down to taking care of what we’ve been given and making the most of our moments.
In the magazine article, the sisters share their straight and to the point thoughts on longevity: “Eat healthy. Stay active. Believe in a higher power.” Since an individual’s life span is an unknown, I say to the sisters – to Rose who is 101 and Ruth who is 104 and Rubye who is 110 – thank you for the advice. And thank you for the inspiration.
I’ll just have to let life reveal itself and live everyday to the fullest. To be present in every moment! How about you?
(Image courtesy of http://www.scenicreflections.com.)
May you live to a hundred in health and with the wealth of wonderful experiences and wisdom.
Thank you, my friend. I’ll hold that wish close to my heart and send the same back to you.
Our medical advances in some cases are not for the better. I nurse people who are bed ridden, can’t feed themselves, roll over, control their bladder or bowels. And I nurse the demented who cry constantly because they ride a squirrel’s wheel inside their head. We force upon them medications to keep them alive. Why? Even with some advanced directives or when these people had their faculties they told their family members, “Please let me die in peace, don’t let me rot,” those wishes are not honored. It’s not about us. Love is letting go.
Susan – You’ve touched on unwanted longevity. And the question – for whom do we keep people alive if there is no chance for recovery or cure? What is civilized? Whose decision? Laws, cultural beliefs, and moral and religious views all factor in as to how a society handles this. Wish I had the answer. Thank you for widening the conversation.