that’s like adding three more Floridas, inhabited entirely by seniors.
September 18, 2014 10:35 AM   Subscribe

 
Funny, for myself (at 51), 75 seems old enough, but my parents are already 75 & 81 and I certainly don't want them to die. So, in some sense, wanting myself to die before life becomes too uncomfortable is selfish and so is wanting my parents to continue living for my comfort. If not selfish, at least hypocritical.
posted by doctor_negative at 10:44 AM on September 18, 2014 [2 favorites]


I want more life, fucker.
posted by entropicamericana at 10:46 AM on September 18, 2014 [58 favorites]


My grandmother remarried when she was 80 and her new husband was 86. They are 87 and 93 now, and while they don't move as quickly as they used to, and may spend more time getting medical care, I don't think either one of them thinks that 75 would have been a sufficient life.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:48 AM on September 18, 2014 [18 favorites]


My gramgram turns 75 this year. You give her all the extra years you don't want ... then you have my permission to die.
posted by dgaicun at 10:51 AM on September 18, 2014 [14 favorites]


“Why I Hope to Die at 75”

"Hope is not a plan of action." He decries assisted suicide, describing it as driven by "depression, hopelessness, and fear of losing their dignity and control," yet describes living too long as "It renders many of us, if not disabled, then faltering and declining, a state that may not be worse than death but is nonetheless deprived." Is this not the same?
posted by the man of twists and turns at 10:52 AM on September 18, 2014 [17 favorites]


Everyone's mileage may vary.
posted by The Card Cheat at 10:53 AM on September 18, 2014 [28 favorites]


All I can say is, after dealing with both my mother and my FIL over the course of the past couple of years...their infirmities, the state of elder care in this country if you aren't independently wealthy, and simply the reality of getting old in the US...well...let's just say I think I'm already older than I really want to be. And, I sure as hell don't want to live another 20 or 30 years. The thought of that scares the living piss out of me.
posted by Thorzdad at 10:54 AM on September 18, 2014 [16 favorites]


"Hope is not a plan of action."

It's more a plan of inaction for him- at the end of the article, he states that he plans to have no cancer screening or treatment, antibiotics, flu vaccines, etc.- after age 75.
posted by damayanti at 10:56 AM on September 18, 2014 [1 favorite]


I found the "Why I Hope To Die At 75" article to be well-written and well-reasonsed, and it echoes a lot of the sentiments I have about not wanting to try to live to be as old as possible in the face in undoubtedly increasing physical and mental infirmary after a certain age.

I'm certainly not ready to go yet, but when I look at living to, say, 92 - double my current age - I think to myself, why would I want to do that?

I'd be perfectly content to get to 75 or -ish and then have an exit. The idea of living to be as old as possible simply does not appeal to me.
posted by hippybear at 10:57 AM on September 18, 2014 [5 favorites]


Do people actually tell their children and siblings how long they want to live, as if it's a choice?

This sounds bizarre to me. My life expectancy with my medical condition is age 56, and I can't imagine such a capricious discussion.
posted by mochapickle at 10:57 AM on September 18, 2014 [3 favorites]


Your preferred lifespan sucks.
posted by Naberius at 10:59 AM on September 18, 2014 [29 favorites]


Do people actually tell their children and siblings how long they want to live, as if it's a choice?

My wife, who is at heart 12 years old, regularly tells me how long she wants to live. Just long enough to die in 2069.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 11:01 AM on September 18, 2014 [3 favorites]


Do people actually tell their children and siblings how long they want to live, as if it's a choice?

There's certainly nothing bizarre about having end-of-life issue discussions with friends and family. If you have a DNR request on file, or even if you want no drastic life-extending measures taken to extend a life which would be lived in pain and suffering, it's reasonable to talk openly about these things with as many people as possible, so if/when there comes a time when the doctors want to work their craft against your wishes, there are plenty of other people who know your wishes and will help prevent them from being violated.

Saying that you'd think that 75 years alive would be a perfectly fine and fulfilling age to die at is also not bizarre.
posted by hippybear at 11:03 AM on September 18, 2014 [9 favorites]


My wife, who is at heart 12 years old, regularly tells me how long she wants to live. Just long enough to die in 2069.
Will you still need me, will you still feed me, in 2069?
posted by Buttons Bellbottom at 11:04 AM on September 18, 2014 [12 favorites]


Fuck, I won't even get full social security until I'm 67. I'd like a little more than 8 years of retirement.
posted by octothorpe at 11:05 AM on September 18, 2014 [18 favorites]


I think it's great the life expectancy is growing, and I feel pretty confidant that (if our species manages not to destroy the planet in the next few hundred years) and if we are able to continue bringing education and resources to communities in the world that are struggling we will see a decline, not a rise in the human population to go along with it.

I also think the ability to keep people healthy and able to contribute for longer will mean there are more resources to go around to care for those who are living longer ages. So on the one hand, individual preferences are fine, but I will say that creating community standards where we make dying young a morally superior position puts pressure on humans to follow through with a standard that I think will take humanity the wrong direction and promote more support of policies that cease providing quality of life and healthcare to the elderly.

Not saying this particular article is INTENDING to promote that, I just feel like it's a direction I feel like we should be conscious to steer clear of.
posted by xarnop at 11:07 AM on September 18, 2014 [4 favorites]


Dang, those are some great pics in the "What Happens When We All Live to 100?" article.
posted by Theta States at 11:07 AM on September 18, 2014 [1 favorite]


Great article - thanks for posting it!

This is actually something I've been thinking about for myself lately - though for me, I've decided my cut-off is 80. I've seen what extreme old age has done to people in my own family, and I want no part of it. I don't want to be demented, I don't want to live in a nursing home, and I most certainly do not want to be a vegetable in adult diapers parked in front of a TV set.

A few years ago, I put my beloved 18-year-old cat to sleep when she couldn't climb in and out of her litterbox anymore; this former purr machine was so debilitated she couldn't even purr when I scratched her ears (mind you, this was a kitty who would purr when I merely spoke to her!). And that got me thinking - I don't want to live to the point where I have to be lifted on and off the commode.

Obviously, this is YMMV. It certainly should be an individual decision! I have all my DNR, living will, etc. paperwork in order. And I think that once I hit 75 or so, no more screenings, and I will opt for comfort care/hospice instead of throwing the kitchen sink at whatever Horrible Disease I might get. I will opt for the flu shot, though, on the grounds that I don't want to be a flu vector for all the pregnant women, little kids, and immunocompromised folks out there (THAT is what vaccination is for).
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 11:07 AM on September 18, 2014 [7 favorites]


Jeez. That dying at 75 article is non-stop ableism. The author is self-informed enough to recognize at least some of his hipocrisy, but recognizing it doesn't make it better.
posted by Skwirl at 11:09 AM on September 18, 2014 [20 favorites]


I don't quite get his contradictory stances about not living past his self-described prime and being against assisted suicide. I don't think the man has ever felt very intense pain, because his ideas about allowing cancer to just happen and quietly, easily take him out are so laughably rose-tinted that I think he's in for a big shock.
posted by xingcat at 11:11 AM on September 18, 2014 [26 favorites]


For those who write this sort of bullshit, tell me you don't want to live beyond 75 when in fact you turn 75...not now, not a year from now but at 75...I am 85 and I see no reason to want to shuffle off into the darkness. Yep. I know. We are like leaves on a tree and we turn color, fall, so that new leaves can take our place in the Spring. Ok. There are lots of leaves on each tree so I want to be one of the leaves that does not fall off to make room. This will not be, but that does not mean I am rushing to be the first leafs to fall! Go drop if you want. But I am NOT you and love each day and so "leaf" me be and speak only for yourself.
posted by Postroad at 11:11 AM on September 18, 2014 [161 favorites]


I'm not rich and I'm never going to be rich. If I could be assured of decent health care and enough money to live on, sure I'd want to live past 75. But as it is, I'm pretty sure that I'll be left miserably alone and disabled in a warming world, or possibly agonized and demented in some charity home where I'll get bedsores full of maggots. All I'm hoping for anymore is some kind of bloody revolution before I die so that at least a few of those one percenters get what's coming to them, and then I can die in relative peace.
posted by Frowner at 11:12 AM on September 18, 2014 [16 favorites]


Suuuuuicide is painless, it brings on maaany changes....
posted by aramaic at 11:13 AM on September 18, 2014 [1 favorite]


Yeah, skwirl, I was reading it from a disability perspective as well, and ugh. The mental and physical challenges he doesn't want to live with... plenty of people have those at every age and still are leading full lives that they don't want to end. He's got a lot of ugly assumptions going on.
posted by Daily Alice at 11:14 AM on September 18, 2014 [13 favorites]


Yeah, I think my grandmother had pretty much no real impairments at all until she was in her late 80s, and there's no good reason that she would have been better off dying at 75. 75 seems completely arbitrary and kind of silly. I'm sure that at some point my quality of life will seem not-great to me, and maybe at that point I'll decide to forgo medical treatment, but I'm not arrogant enough to think that I can predict in advance when that will be.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 11:15 AM on September 18, 2014 [6 favorites]


I'm going to do two things on my 75th birthday. First I'll visit my wife's grave. Then I'll join the army.
posted by Timmoy Daen at 11:15 AM on September 18, 2014 [31 favorites]


I have a lot of friends and relatives who are in their late sixties, seventies and eighties who live full rewarding lives, basically not much different than mine except that they get to have a lot more fun since they don't work 40+ hours a week.
posted by octothorpe at 11:16 AM on September 18, 2014 [4 favorites]


I am NOT you and love each day.

Are you demented? Unable to care for yourself? In intense pain? You don't mention those details.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 11:17 AM on September 18, 2014


So much depends on our family and personal experiences doesn't it? I have a sharp, fit and active 96 year old grandmother. To me 75 sounds like it's just getting to a new stage of life. Sure, one where you slow down, start to lose friends and deal with ever increasing chronic medial issues, but hardly a reason to stop! But, I also know my other grandmother faded away to Alzheimer's at a younger age than that, and it was very sad to see someone special slowly slip off while their body was still here.

I'm glad I have time to think about it, and I suspect elderly living will be a lot different before it's relevant to me. I agree with the sentiment that any pronouncement more distant than "tomorrow will be a good day to die" is likely premature.
posted by meinvt at 11:18 AM on September 18, 2014


For those who write this sort of bullshit

I'm not sure that the fact he feels differently from you makes his feelings "bullshit." He doesn't say that you have to feel the same way.
posted by yoink at 11:21 AM on September 18, 2014 [5 favorites]


Eventually death-by-ageing will be obsolete. Then what?
posted by blue_beetle at 11:26 AM on September 18, 2014 [3 favorites]


Aging isn't the same as disability, even though there are overlaps in experience. I know younger people with disabilities and, for the most part, their conditions are relatively stable and fairly predictable - a decent and well-run society could easily make their lives more convenient, secure and comfortable. With aging, it's the fact that you know there's going to be a big crisis but you don't know when it will happen or what it will be, or how much control you'll be left with - maybe you'll have a stroke and lose your personality and ability to communicate; maybe you'll develop dementia and live a life of terrifying hallucinations and confusion (like my great-aunt's last year); maybe you'll watch yourself slip away but be too locked in by loss of capacity to commit suicide even if you'd like to. That's a very different experience from most disability and even from having a single chronic degenerative condition.

I think it's very much a personality thing, mediated by class and access to resources - how much uncertainty can you handle? How sure are you that others will help you? How sure are you that if you have a stroke and lose the use of language, you'll have good quality intuitive care? If, either due to personality or to real awareness of risk, you feel like your end-of-life experience may be drawn out and agonizing, I think it's perfectly okay to get in a "die younger while you still have some options open" headspace.
posted by Frowner at 11:26 AM on September 18, 2014 [10 favorites]


I don't have any kids so I deserve to live to 150 at least.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 11:34 AM on September 18, 2014 [5 favorites]


If genetics are any indication then I may do all right when I get up there. The majority of my closest relatives lived to 83+ and enjoyed generally good health right to the end, or at least not health issues that affected their lives in a major way. Our family seems to go, go, go and then go pretty quick. One Grandpa lived to 95 and he still up and doing things until the last six months. Other Grandpa to 87 and it was only in the last year that he was unable to look after himself. Grandma, 83 and she trucked on, still travelling and bopping around for 5 years after the doctor said she should have have died to a heart attack. She refused to 'rest' like her doctor ordered. The last Grandma died young but due to something that was preventable. My parents are just over 70 and the health problems they do have are slowing them down some but not much. Their siblings are the same.

So no, with my family history 75 seems pretty young to be shuffling off.
posted by Jalliah at 11:36 AM on September 18, 2014


I'm not sure that the fact he feels differently from you makes his feelings "bullshit." He doesn't say that you have to feel the same way.

Perhaps not. But it is bullshit (no other word) to say that people who want to commit suicide or end their lives with euthanasia because of what he lists as "depression, hopelessness, and fear of losing their dignity and control" should "get help." Granted, he leavens that with "we should focus on giving all terminally ill people a good, compassionate death—not euthanasia or assisted suicide for a tiny minority."

But the point is: Get help? There is next to no help to be gotten, at least not in the US, unless you are part of that "tiny minority" who can afford it, and if you can't afford it, well, life sucks and too bad. There is no good, compassionate death for the overwhelmingly vast majority, and even if there is, the folks who survive you will pay for it and will soon want to commit suicide themselves.

And I don't see that changing by the time he's 75 or by the time I'm 75.
posted by blucevalo at 11:37 AM on September 18, 2014 [5 favorites]


Eventually death-by-ageing will be obsolete. Then what?

Barring the sudden appearance of aliens with life-preserving tech that works on us, I'll be dead before that happens (most likely everyone on this board will be) so it's really not our problem.

The world in which that occurs will be sufficiently different from ours that we would be basing our stance on complete guesswork. I just can't be arsed to wring my hands over the reproductive and end-of-life choices of my distant descendants, and they wouldn't care what I thought by then anyway.

Re my end-of-life choices, I'm torn. I don't want to die so long as I can still have anything like a good time/pleasure. But when that stops being possible, I want to go as quickly and smoothly as I can. I will more than likely have to rely on my husband and/or kid to decide to pull my plug, so all I can really do is educated them about my choices. And make up the proper paperwork.
posted by emjaybee at 11:38 AM on September 18, 2014 [1 favorite]


With aging, it's the fact that you know there's going to be a big crisis but you don't know when it will happen or what it will be, or how much control you'll be left with - maybe you'll have a stroke and lose your personality and ability to communicate; maybe you'll develop dementia and live a life of terrifying hallucinations and confusion (like my great-aunt's last year); maybe you'll watch yourself slip away but be too locked in by loss of capacity to commit suicide even if you'd like to.
That's not aging, except in the sense that we're all aging. My brother's 30-something friend got hit by a truck crossing the street and had a devastating head injury, which she was in no way economically or otherwise equipped to deal with. My mom's cousin just had a stroke in her 50s. There is no magical switch that gets flicked at 75 that makes one suddenly susceptible to random medical issues. No matter what your age, you don't know what the future holds, and there is the potential that something will go terribly wrong. That's kind of the human condition.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 11:39 AM on September 18, 2014 [6 favorites]


But it is bullshit (no other word) to say that people who want to commit suicide or end their lives with euthanasia because of what he lists as "depression, hopelessness, and fear of losing their dignity and control" should "get help."

That's a different issue. I agree that I find his attitude towards euthanasia rather mystifying. On the other hand, while I'm a staunch supporter of voluntary euthanasia, I can't quite see it as "bullshit" that people suffering from "depression, hopelessness, and the fear of losing their dignity and control" should "get help." They absolutely should. The fact that that help is hard to get in the USA except for the comparatively wealthy is shameful, certainty, but it doesn't alter the fact that that help ought to be available and that one wouldn't want to make quick-and-easy euthanasia a way of avoiding providing support to people with otherwise treatable depression etc.
posted by yoink at 11:42 AM on September 18, 2014 [6 favorites]


There is no magical switch that gets flicked at 75 that makes one suddenly susceptible to random medical issues.

There's a myriad of little switches flipping all the time which, collectively, vastly (and geometrically) increase the probability of "random medical issues" as you get older. Of course we're all of us on borrowed time and of course disaster can strike at any time--but the probability of catastrophic medical complications is measurably higher at 75 than at 25 for most people--and it only increases with every passing year.
posted by yoink at 11:44 AM on September 18, 2014 [3 favorites]


Given how obvious it is that different people age a different rates and have different propensities for various disabling conditions, it seems disingenuous to the point of media-attention-trolling to base a length of life decision on calendar year age. Better to be a grown up and set some thought-out quality-of-life criteria, and base a cut-off on those, if because of your own personal ethics you feel you need a cut-off.

But it's not like the author is a stranger to controversy. It's worth noting how easily his unsettling positions can be misrepresented -- Republican campaign scare-tactics about death panels and drug rationing by people like Betsy McCaughey, Michelle Bachmann and Sarah Palin have cited (however unfairly or inaccurately) Emanuel's writings.
posted by aught at 11:46 AM on September 18, 2014 [3 favorites]


This is possibly the world's greatest humblebrag.
posted by benito.strauss at 11:50 AM on September 18, 2014 [11 favorites]


That's not aging, except in the sense that we're all aging. My brother's 30-something friend got hit by a truck crossing the street and had a devastating head injury, which she was in no way economically or otherwise equipped to deal with. My mom's cousin just had a stroke in her 50s. There is no magical switch that gets flicked at 75 that makes one suddenly susceptible to random medical issues.

Yes, but the odds change so much as you age. That's the calculation involved. Right now, I could get diagnosed with cancer - but the risk is low. My risk is going to climb significantly in the medium future, and so is my risk of stroke, plus all kinds of other stuff. I'm far less at risk from falls now than I'll ever be again - my great aunt died because she fell at home and didn't survive the surgery, for instance, and while I could have a fatal fall at home now, it's much less likely. If I do get hit by a bus, I have much better odds of a good recovery.

It's like the difference between my neighborhood and an urban war zone during conflict - people get shot in my neighborhood; I could get shot in my neighborhood. But that doesn't mean that having some qualms about the war zone is silly, or that I have the same degree of risk in my neighborhood.
posted by Frowner at 11:50 AM on September 18, 2014 [2 favorites]


My kids have been binging on Avatar: The Last Airbender on Netflix. In one episode I saw with them, Sokka and an old fisherman are caught in a storm:

Sokka: "I'm too young to die!"

Old Fisherman: "I'm not! But I don't wanna!"
posted by xmattxfx at 11:52 AM on September 18, 2014 [21 favorites]


(And again, that's where personality and access to care come in - I don't like avoidable risk, personally, and I don't trust this society to do right by me when I'm vulnerable. As un avoidable risk starts to climb, there comes a point where it seems better to get out while the getting is still good. Some folks are very sanguine in the face of risk and/or are confident that they'll have family or state care, so it's not an issue for them.
posted by Frowner at 11:54 AM on September 18, 2014 [1 favorite]


Are you demented? Unable to care for yourself? In intense pain? You don't mention those details.

as I heard it put a while back by someone far wiser than I, "The problem is, much of what medical science has achieved in the past half century or so in terms of longer life actually manifests as longer death. That affliction that once would have killed us in six months now takes six years. Which don't fool yourself, is very good business for many in the med/pharmaceutical biz, and tantamount to torture for those doing the dying, and their loved ones. So what we need to do is find the courage, individually and collectively, to embrace that six month death, and in doing so, make it as easy as possible for everybody involved."*

Or as aught just put it:

Better to be a grown up and set some thought-out quality-of-life criteria, and base a cut-off on those,

* paraphrasing, of course
posted by philip-random at 12:05 PM on September 18, 2014 [5 favorites]


Fuck, I won't even get full social security until I'm 67.

At this point I feel like not only will we not end up getting any social security benefits until 90 or so, if ever, but there also won't be any ice floes left for us to expose ourselves on as a last resort.
posted by poffin boffin at 12:11 PM on September 18, 2014 [6 favorites]


You could turn on cable news during an election season and wait for the brain hemorrhage.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 12:12 PM on September 18, 2014 [3 favorites]


Personally I plan to be around for the heat death of the universe. Everything else is lack of ambition.
posted by MartinWisse at 12:20 PM on September 18, 2014 [16 favorites]


I bet the reason that so many previously liberal-leaning seniors watch shit like Fox News nowadays is because it's cheaper than a pacemaker.
posted by poffin boffin at 12:21 PM on September 18, 2014 [2 favorites]


octothorpe: "Fuck, I won't even get full social security until I'm 67. I'd like a little more than 8 years of retirement."

I am 67 and I sure as shit don't want to die in 8 years.
posted by jgaiser at 12:28 PM on September 18, 2014 [8 favorites]


at the end of the article, he states that he plans to have no ... flu vaccines, etc.- after age 75.

WTF Ezekiel?

I'm sure all the immunocompromised 55-year-olds you encounter in your daily life will LOVE this plan.
posted by Jahaza at 12:32 PM on September 18, 2014 [9 favorites]


> but there also won't be any ice floes left for us to expose ourselves on as a last resort.

The pessimistic side of me has a feeling these "we're all gonna live to 100!" articles are going to be looked back on by future generations the way we currently look back on articles from the '50s predicting jet packs and flying cars.
posted by The Card Cheat at 12:41 PM on September 18, 2014 [2 favorites]


Details for Steely:
I am very happily married and have been to a woman 29 my junior and we married 31 years ago. My oldest son is 50 and has a daughter in last year of high school; next, son is 45; next is 26, and daughter, senior in college. I have had a bout of lymphoma but not life threatening. I go for 3 mile walks often. Go to NY to see plays, music, dance, eat. I am older than my in-laws. Pretty girls still dazzle me. I have seen many friends and former colleagues sicken and/or die. Is there as up side to that? yep. Buy far fewer Christmas cards.
posted by Postroad at 12:42 PM on September 18, 2014 [17 favorites]


Journalist: So, sir, what is it like to be 100 years old?

Centenarian: Well, it's kind of hard. You can't get around so well, everything sort of hurts, and you forget things a lot.

Journalist: I'm not sure I'd want to live to be a hundred.

Centenarian: Son, that's because you've never been ninety-nine.
posted by localroger at 12:42 PM on September 18, 2014 [21 favorites]


It's amusing to watch everyone who will not get to live longer talking about what it'll be like to live longer.

Rupert Murdoch, yes. Jack Ma, also yes. You? Nope. You die "naturally" after whatever funds remained in your various accounts could be drained off and given to the wealthy via their healthcare investments.
posted by aramaic at 12:49 PM on September 18, 2014 [3 favorites]


Postroad I sincerely hope you outlive me.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 12:52 PM on September 18, 2014 [7 favorites]


My wife, who is at heart 12 years old, regularly tells me how long she wants to live. Just long enough to die in 2069.

Yes I will live to be 85. Here is my tombstone:

Here lies Mrs. Pterodactyl
Beloved Wife and Mother (NB I hope)
Born Day Month 1984
Departed this Vale of Tears Day Month 2069

She was too pure for this wicked world.

posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 12:54 PM on September 18, 2014 [5 favorites]


I am a little confused about the statistics each author uses. Life expectancy from birth is determined not only by lifespan exactly but by infant mortality. So in Sweden lifespan was lengthened by lowering infant mortality. Its not that people stop dying at the age of 40 it's that fewer children died before the age of 7. lowering infant mortality therefore increases adult life span from a statistical point of view. So, I'm curious about how long people actually lived. Or maybe the statistics here are for a specific cohort, say lifespan of those who survived childhood? It seems unlikely because it's rare to find that level of precision in over the counter demographic data like generalist journos commonly wield.
posted by Nevin at 12:59 PM on September 18, 2014 [2 favorites]


NB Sweetheart that comment was legally binding and if my tombstone doesn't say that I will come back and haunt you.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 12:59 PM on September 18, 2014 [6 favorites]


You die "naturally" after whatever funds remained in your various accounts could be drained off and given to the wealthy via their healthcare investments.

Yeah, this. Unless you are somehow a perfect example of a TV commercial old person, how your later years pan out are going to be completely dependent on how large your warehouse full of cash is. Just for reference, the starting price in my neck of the woods for an assisted living/managed care room is around $6,300/month. YMMV accordingly. Prices go up rapidly after that, depending on the services you require, whether you want to live at the nice place with manicured lawns and on-call bus service or at the old place next to the railroad tracks, etc.

Save/invest accordingly, kids.
posted by Thorzdad at 1:02 PM on September 18, 2014 [3 favorites]


She was too pure for this wicked world.

I prefer:

What the hell are you looking at?
posted by IndigoJones at 1:02 PM on September 18, 2014 [1 favorite]


Live fast, die young.
posted by Ogre Lawless at 1:04 PM on September 18, 2014 [1 favorite]


Life expectancy from birth is determined not only by lifespan exactly but by infant mortality. So in Sweden lifespan was lengthened by lowering infant mortality. Its not that people stop dying at the age of 40 it's that fewer children died before the age of 7.
The "Why I hope to die at 75" article addressed that. The author says that the gains in life expectancy in the first half of the 20th century were from reductions in child mortality, and the gains since then have been in extension of lifespan for people past the age of 60. He thinks the former was a clear good and the latter maybe not so much.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 1:07 PM on September 18, 2014


As I have no children and no hope of affording the exorbitant assisted living rates, my personal long-term care plan is to go on a long, steep hike up a mountain at the first sign of impending frailty. I don't want to spend the last years of my life in a hospital bed with tubes coming out of me.
posted by oozy rat in a sanitary zoo at 1:10 PM on September 18, 2014


You die "naturally" after whatever funds remained in your various accounts could be drained off and given to the wealthy via their healthcare investments.

Well, to be fair, also to the myriad of health care workers and admin staff whose jobs it is to keep old people alive if not kicking. There's a reason those Job Of The Future features all feature health care most of all. (And of course if as an American you go the Medicaid route, it's the government rather than healthcare investors that wants it take after the curtain goes down. It's ugly.)
posted by IndigoJones at 1:14 PM on September 18, 2014 [2 favorites]


My friend's high school girlfriend wanted him to kill her at age 29 with a sword. He didn't, thankfully.

I think people should live as long as possible but should do it by working really hard on their feet, eating a high-protein/high-fat diet, and studying classics, rather than taking it easy for several decades and then depending on expensive end-of-life procedures after that.
posted by michaelh at 1:15 PM on September 18, 2014 [1 favorite]


I've talked with this with my roommate and she's talked with another of our friends. We're in our late 30s. Both of them are disabled (fibromyalgia, primarily, for one; intracranial hypertension for the other; both have other assorted co-factors). I am "healthy" (and by healthy I mean "not disabled in any legal sense of the term").

We all sort of think that there might come a point where it's time to off ourselves. None of us are at that point and one of us I think thinks it will come sooner rather than later. The other two of us sort of expect it to be sometime in our 70s or 80s. My roomie's grandmother finally died after many years (I think? I can't recall - it might be that she's still alive...) basically I remember that she said after 100 she kept praying every night for "the lord to take her". But whatever it is, genetically, she just kept shuffling along.

I figure, ya know, if that's what you want, if you're tired at that stage of life and ready to go, you should have every damn right to proceed. I really dislike our society's stance towards suicide/end-of-life decisions (for the most part... DNRs are definitely a good thing, for example, but still much too little). I definitely think we need better mental and physical health care (that's understating it)...

I think we should all have the right to choose to go if that's what we desire. I also think that those who are in mental anguish for various reasons definitely should have every right to a strong support system to help them along and reduce the desire for suicide. This is for both young and old.

Oh - the other thing - like we talk about old age and the desire for death as if it's just about sickness or ill health or mental degradation or whatever, but beyond that, while thinking about the able-ism of that context, I think it's even moreso about loneliness... Obviously you make and create new friends through your life - hopefully (I hope I do so, too... though most of my friend creation is online these days), but it's harder and harder to find real cohorts the older you get. Nursing homes help, on that front, I guess? But still.

Anyways, I know not what the future holds, and just hold that I may or may not someday end up offing myself in some way if I feel the need to. I hope I can go peacefully in my sleep after a nice long life filled with great memories of loved ones and a life well lived with happy times scattered amongst the sad and boring.
posted by symbioid at 1:16 PM on September 18, 2014


'You are saying she committed suicide?'
'No, no: sallekhana is not suicide... Suicide is a great sin, the result of despair. But sallekhana is as a triumph over death, an expression of hope.'
'I don't understand,' I said. 'If you starve yourself to death, then surely you are committing suicide?'
'Not at all. We believe that death is not the end, and that life and death are complementary. So when you embrace sallekhana you are embracing a whole new life -- it's no more than going through from one room to another.'
...
'At all stages you are guided by an experienced mataji or guru. Everything is planned long in advance - when, and how, you give up your food. Someone is appointed to sit with you and look after you at all times, and a message is sent out to all members of the community that you have decided to take this path. First, you fast one day a week, then eat only on alternate days: one day you take food, the next you fast. One by one, you give up different types of food. You give up rice, then fruits, then vegetables, then juice, then buttermilk. Finally you take only water, and then you have that only on alternate days. Eventually, when you are ready, you give that up too. If you do it very gradually, there is no suffering at all. The body is cooled down, so that you can concentrate inside on the soul, and on erasing all your bad karma.
'At every stage you are asked: are you prepared to go on, are you sure you are ready for this, are you sure you don't want to turn back? it is very difficult to describe, but really it can be so beautiful: the ultimate rejection of all desires, the sacrificing of everything. You are surrounded, cradled, by your fellow monks. Your mind is fixed on the examples of the Jinas.'
-William Dalrymple, Nine Lives, in his chapter on a Jain nun in India
posted by shivohum at 1:23 PM on September 18, 2014 [7 favorites]


Bulgaroktonos: My wife, who is at heart 12 years old
PERVERT! (Is there such a thing as a cardiopedophile?)
posted by IAmBroom at 1:45 PM on September 18, 2014


Jeez, I feel terrible for this guy's father. At 87, he can "swim, read the newspaper, needle his kids on the phone, and still live with my mother in their own house" and describes himself as happy . . . and his son uses his life story as an example of why life at that age is not really worth living. Not to mention all the stuff about how you can never live fully as long as your parents are alive. Not living with you, mind you, not in frequent contact with you, but alive. I don't think that point of view is as obvious and commonplace as he seems to think.

Also, does this conform to every stereotype of doctorly arrogance or what? If he can't be his best self he doesn't want to exist at all, and "best," for him, seems synonymous with "least vulnerable." "We want to be remembered as independent, not experienced as burdens" -- as if those were the only two options.
posted by ostro at 1:52 PM on September 18, 2014 [11 favorites]


Look, Ezekiel, if you hope not to live past 75, stop taking long walks and climbing mountains - start enjoying a crap diet and add some stress to your life, like most Americans.

What this guy seems afraid of is a loss of control that comes with old age. Who cares how you are remembered; you won't be around to perceive that, will you?

Incidentally, most Americans would pay money to have your gig, Ezekiel. They are living high-stress lives, without the time to think about how they will lose status if their kids have to buy them adult diapers. Get a life!
posted by Vibrissae at 2:07 PM on September 18, 2014 [4 favorites]


The "Why I hope to die at 75" article addressed that. The author says that the gains in life expectancy in the first half of the 20th century were from reductions in child mortality, and the gains since then have been in extension of lifespan for people past the age of 60. He thinks the former was a clear good and the latter maybe not so much.

I get that. But it still doesn't answer the question of how long life expectancy was before, say 1900. I doubt it was as low as 40, which is what the author says. Life expectancy, should you make it past childhood, was likely going to be around 60. That's my assumption anyway.

I've read that neolithic life expectancy was actually lower than paleolithic life expectancy...
posted by Nevin at 2:18 PM on September 18, 2014 [1 favorite]


At 52 and increasingly arthritic-chronic-painy, I haven't yet reached the age or level of suffering where I opt to have a canister of helium always at the ready in my basement just in case (especially since I have several mammalian dependents), but I think I can perhaps glimpse it on the horizon.
posted by FelliniBlank at 2:21 PM on September 18, 2014 [1 favorite]


According to AAMFT...
Older adults make up 12% of the US population, but account for 18% of all suicide deaths.

In 2002, the annual suicide rate for persons over the age of 65 was over 15 per 100,000 individuals; this number increases for those aged 75 to 84, with over 17 suicide deaths per every 100,000. The number rises even higher for those over age 85. Further, elder suicide may be under-reported by 40% or more.

Not counted are "silent suicides," like deaths from overdoses, self-starvation or dehydration, and "accidents." The elderly have a high rate of completing suicide because they use firearms, hanging, and drowning. Double suicides involving spouses or partners occur most frequently among the aged.
posted by Thorzdad at 2:29 PM on September 18, 2014


Hm.

My mom is 75 and my dad is 76. Both are in good health, enjoy life, and barring unforseen circumstance should stay in pretty decent shape for at least the next few years. They still do their own yard work in a really large yard (albeit by riding lawnmower.)

I get the author's point. But age really and truly is just a number.

As for me, 55, I am not afraid to die. I know where I'm going. 75 is fine, but if God has more for me to do, up to Him.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 2:57 PM on September 18, 2014 [2 favorites]


but there also won't be any ice floes left for us to expose ourselves on as a last resort.

I prefer to expose myself in warmer climes anyway
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 3:14 PM on September 18, 2014


from some of the comments hee I see that I had not made myself clear or that I was not properly understood:
When I said the article was bullshit, I meant and said that it is silly to say this when one is not anywhere close to 75. Get to be,say 74 and a half and let's see if you continue to say this. Of core he has every right to say whatever he wants, to take his own life, etc etc. That was not my point.
posted by Postroad at 3:20 PM on September 18, 2014 [4 favorites]


But it still doesn't answer the question of how long life expectancy was before, say 1900. I doubt it was as low as 40, which is what the author says. Life expectancy, should you make it past childhood, was likely going to be around 60. That's my assumption anyway.
This nifty tool allows you to compare American life expectancy for people of various ages (birth, 5, 20, 40 and 60) over time. In 1850, life expectancy for an American man at birth was slightly under 40. If he made it to age 5 it was about 55, and if he made it to 20 he could expect to live to be almost 60. Nowadays, there's no big jump in life expectancy if a man lives to adulthood, because very few Americans die in childhood, and the average life expectancy for men is in the mid-70s.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 4:12 PM on September 18, 2014 [2 favorites]


My mother is 96. She has no chronic illnesses other than dementia. She can walk, toilet, dress and undress, do her makeup and hair, bathe herself - she's physically very high-functioing. But: She can't learn new things. She can't do the things she used to enjoy, or she isn't interested. She eats, sleeps, and zones out in front of the TV, if someone doesn't make her leave her room. She is confused, doesn't know where she is half the time, can't remember what I said (or what she said) 30 seconds ago. For her birthday last Sunday, I took her out for lunch and a visit to the botanic gardens in a wheelchair (she can't walk that far). She doesn't remember any of it. If I spent hours every day with her (instead of several times a week) she'd still complain bitterly that I never visit her. If she knew, she'd hate it that she does this.

She thinks she has things she needs to be doing (paying bills, shopping, managing her money) that I am doing for her because she can't be trusted to do them anymore. It makes her very upset no matter how many times I try to give her a project or activity (which she can't or won't do) or tell her she doesn't have to worry about it.

Nothing tastes good to her. She is almost always in a crappy, bitchy mood (I know, who can blame her, but still, it's not pleasant for either of us). She doesn't remember that most of the people she loved have died, and asks me about them. I have to lie ("we'll call her tomorrow; maybe he changed his phone number; he must be out of town; I'll look for her") because it breaks her heart all over again when she realizes they're dead. Imagine what it's like to learn that both of your sons, your parents, your husband, and your siblings are dead over and over and over again.

Because I have an up-close and personal view of what it is like to be very, very old, I do not want to live to be as old as my mother. I shudder to think of how vulnerable she is and what her life would be like (exponentially worse) if she did not have a daughter advocating for her and keeping her from being exploited and/or abused. I don't have a child who will do that for me. I also don't want to spend the next ten or 15 years of what's left of my life (I'm 60) being her caregiver (her own mother died at 106). And this care costs thousands every month, and it's only going to get more expensive. If she were aware of her condition, she'd wish she were dead.

75 sounds good. Maybe 80, given my hereditary likelihood to still be healthy and in my right mind then. But no more. I plan to go up into the mountains in winter and quietly freeze to death in my tent.
posted by caryatid at 5:01 PM on September 18, 2014 [21 favorites]


I've seen 100. My dad died at 100. You don't want any part of 100. If there is such a thing as quality of life, it doesn't exist at 100. If you wish to end your life as a senile, disoriented, paranoid and incontinent infant then go for 100. Otherwise, don't bother...
posted by jim in austin at 5:07 PM on September 18, 2014 [3 favorites]


I hope by the time I'm 75, I can afford a body unit upgrade and some sweet cognitive implants. The whole being ok with death is cool and all, but it's not like we have any options...
posted by pleem at 5:25 PM on September 18, 2014


My wife and I talk about ice floes and walking up the mountain and all that, too. The only problem with these scenarios is that your health often doesn't steadily decline to a point where you've had enough but you're still strong enough to carry it out. You might be fine, more or less, then have a stroke or a heart attack or whatever and then you're bedridden. So it goes.
posted by The Card Cheat at 5:25 PM on September 18, 2014


I have a coworker of sorts who is 94 and still sharp as a fucking tack, embarrassingly his memory is better than mine at this point. My cousin's gramma is 90? 91? and just last weekend beat me at scrabble by over 100 points without once even peeking at the hard-won official family 2 letter word cheat sheet. But unfortunately they're they outliers, and what I've seen of aging is pretty fucking terrible and I want no part of it.
posted by poffin boffin at 5:34 PM on September 18, 2014 [5 favorites]


I want to live to 1,175. I think that might be long enough. I could be wrong. Ask me again in another 1,155 years.
posted by cjorgensen at 5:39 PM on September 18, 2014


caryatid, I'm so sorry you are going through what you are. And that your mom is. She is lucky to have you.

The frustrating thing is, my husband's grandma is the exact same age, and a little frail, but still chugging along perfectly well, mind still sharp, can still drive on occasion, if she doesn't go far. She's been dealt a great hand, all told, and I wish they would take some of her cells and use them to figure out how to make everyone's old age more like hers, and less like your mom's.
posted by emjaybee at 5:49 PM on September 18, 2014 [8 favorites]


I want to die right before everything goes totally to hell.
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:27 PM on September 18, 2014 [2 favorites]


I want to die right before everything goes totally to hell.

So, uhhhh, I'm hoping you've already made your arrangements then? The clock seems to be ticking away as we speak.
posted by aramaic at 6:40 PM on September 18, 2014


Reporter: We'd all like to know, what do you think has helped you the most to live to be 2,000 years old?
2,000 year old man: I think not getting into arguments with people has helped me the most.
Reporter: What? That's the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard.
2,000 year old man: ...maybe you're right.
posted by A dead Quaker at 6:52 PM on September 18, 2014 [9 favorites]


LOL at all the folk who think they will be ready to go at 75. Sure if you are mentally or physically infirm. But what if you are in good health? You are 74 and 364 days old. You played 18 ho9les of golf in the am. (you walked the course) After a light lunch and quick shower you hit the courts for three sets of doubles. Another quick shower. Dinner at the club and bridge from seven to 10:30.

Not quite enough time to call all your kids, grand kids and great grandkids. It is getting close to midnight and that wonderful age of seventy five when you will be checking out of this exhausting rat race.
Note: I am seventy seven and that is relatively reflective of my life. I can assure you I am glad I am still around and would like to continue for as long as I am fit. Then I would certainly consider euthanasia if it would spare my family having to tend to a helpless hopeless feeble old man.
posted by notreally at 7:08 PM on September 18, 2014 [4 favorites]


Raise functional adult children. When your time comes, they are the ones that will acquiesce for a humane and sane end-of-life plan with your medical care team. Or, all too often, the one(s) that have unresolved issues will hold your doctor(s) hostage until every cell of your being has been drugged, tubed, gassed and bled dry of anything resembling life.
posted by docpops at 7:09 PM on September 18, 2014 [3 favorites]


unresolved issues will hold your doctor(s) hostage until every cell of your being has been drugged, tubed, gassed and bled dry of anything resembling life.

Sooo, you're saying if I remain aloof and uncaring, my children will eventually install me in the Golden Throne and I will rule humanity for millennia, trapped in perpetual unlife at the head of an army the likes of which has never been seen in the galaxy?
posted by aramaic at 7:29 PM on September 18, 2014 [1 favorite]


Raise functional adult children.

I'll explain what a risky and expensive proposition this is after I get back from firing myself from a cannon across the Grand Canyon in a classic Jaguar car.
posted by localroger at 7:45 PM on September 18, 2014 [2 favorites]


I would hate to have dementia and be unable to take care of myself. And then I wouldn't be able to choose assisted suicide. But I would really love to see what happens next. Technology, medicine, culture, the world is fascinating. So, I hope my brain and body are relatively functional, and that I can read, listen to the news, hang out online and be around for a while.
posted by theora55 at 7:47 PM on September 18, 2014 [1 favorite]


Or, all too often, the one(s) that have unresolved issues will hold your doctor(s) hostage until every cell of your being has been drugged, tubed, gassed and bled dry of anything resembling life.

That was the end of my father-in-law's life. He was one of the most difficult people I ever dealt with and his many children's lives were all complicated by his propensity for drama. They all had issues with him so no one wanted to make end of life decisions. He wound up with a feeding tube in a body frozen by a Parkensonian condition for a year. The horror.

My grandfather dropped dead at 96 while saying the rosary after a breakfast of bacon and eggs with his wife of 64 years. His last sibling had died and he told me two days before he was ready and looking forward to it. He left my 91 year old grandmother to a sad year and a half of depression leading to dementia.

My mother is just starting to fail a bit in her mid eighties. She has expressed a wish not to live past her time. But when is that? She's still driving and taking care of a household. But she has quit her volunteer jobs and is beginning to get anxious in a way she never did before.

Lately I have been telling my kids that I wish to be kept alive until I am just a head in a jar. This is really to mess with them. I don't know what my plans are, but 75 is too young. I think of my father as dying young at 78, he was the earliest to go of my relatives. We are a tough bunch. I know too many active folks in their 70's to take 75 seriously.
posted by readery at 8:14 PM on September 18, 2014


You played 18 holes of golf in the am. (you walked the course) After a light lunch and quick shower you hit the courts for three sets of doubles. Another quick shower. Dinner at the club and bridge from seven to 10:30.

While it's great if you can physically do this at 77, you do realize you're spending the whole day playing games, right? Sure it's better than living in a nursing home trying to remember where you really live, but it's still just marking time.

There are a lot of young healthy people who can't afford golf or tennis because the economy has hosed them. I wouldn't be bragging to them about how I can spend all my time playing those games in my retirement, because most likely if they live to 77 they'll be spending their days saying "HI!" to customers entering Wal-Mart if they're not actually homeless.
posted by localroger at 8:14 PM on September 18, 2014 [5 favorites]


You played 18 ho9les of golf in the am. (you walked the course) After a light lunch and quick shower you hit the courts for three sets of doubles. Another quick shower. Dinner at the club and bridge from seven to 10:30.

This is just the Scottsdale version of Huis clos. Satre was wrong: hell isn’t other people, it’s golf.
posted by Quinbus Flestrin at 8:39 PM on September 18, 2014 [2 favorites]


You're being a bit of an asshole here, localroger.

For my part, I'm thinking mid to late 80s. Early nineties could be serviceable if I'm fortunate. There aren't many people who are fortunate enough to be sharp after that, and I don't expect that to change. Having watched my grandmother make it to damn near 107, I've had a long time to get comfortable with the idea that limits are perfectly fine, and that 106 is soundly on the far side of that limit for most people.
posted by wotsac at 8:40 PM on September 18, 2014 [1 favorite]


There is no magical switch that gets flicked at 75 that makes one suddenly susceptible to random medical issues.

You're right. It gets flicked at 41. Then you suffer for 30-odd years.

"Old age isn't a battle, it's a massacre."
posted by mrgrimm at 8:47 PM on September 18, 2014 [4 favorites]


I call bullshit.

Let's see what this clown has to say when it's in his face, say he's 73, or 75, whatever, say that cancer comes calling but he looks at the numbers -- it's crystal clear that he has no wisdom, but he is not dumb, he'll look at the numbers -- he looks at the numbers for whatever his particular flavor of cancer is, how bad is the chemo, what are his chances of getting cleared of it. You can bet he's off to start treatment if the numbers are over 50 percent survival. Or say his heart attacks him -- he's going to tell them no, don't put a stent into his chest? Bull-fucking-shit. He'd have 77 of those beauties shoved in there, he'd have stents sticking out all over his fucking head if his cardiologist recommended it, he'd wear a hat made out of stents. Oh, he fell, and broke his hip, and now he can't jump up and down, he can't take smug, shit-eating-grin pictures with his kids in some mountain backdrop, so don't give me a hip replacement, just let me rot in this hospital bed til I croak, but -- Wait! I love my grandkids! I could ride in a golf cart, I could still golf! I want to see my wife smiling at me, she loves me, she just told me again, it's okay that I'm not running marathons or some shit, really it is -- I want to live! I want to live!

*/RANT How'd you like to have a mope like him for a brother-in-law, what a wrist-slitter that'd be, have to sit next to him at table on holidaze, he's all pontificating, finger-waving, pointing, gesticulating, I'm looking for the knife they carved the turkey with, stab either him or myself, either would be fine, anything to where I didn't have to hear his lame, raving, arrogant stupidity. */END RANT

It's just bullshit. I don't believe him. I'm not saying that he doesn't believe him, I'm not saying he's a liar. I'm saying he is in denial of the facts of life.

Denial -- Don't Even Notice I Am Lying

~~~~~

The other article -- it is long-winded; I ended up reading first sentence of each paragraph, skimmed it -- that was good writing. Good reporting. Clear thinking. The state of where we are, today, w/r/t longevity. I loved the idea of high quality of life v length of life; that really is a much better metric, for me.

My particular fears are Alzheimer's or stroking out, rotting in some bed somewhere, disconnected from reality. I've asked a few friends to take care of me if that happens, and by take care of me I don't mean bring flowers to my room and watch me drool; I mean take me out of here. Two of the three are cleaned up junkies, and once a junkie always a junkie, sortof, you never lose those skills, it's like riding a bike; they could sleaze on over to the east side and get a bunch of heroin no problem, poke it into a tube or my arm, end the show for me

I've got medical directives, pull the plug if the game is over, if I cannot think and cannot live without machines living for me. But sometimes the machines come off and there you are, a piece of meat, without sentience. I damn sure don't want that -- what a waste of time and money and resources! Get me outta here.

More. Along with all of that, I have told my doc to make absolutely certain that I'm not able to come back; I had a bunch of heart attacks ten years ago, I was dead without oxygen for a long, long time in a friends pickup, headed to the hospital. These amazing docs got me back but they pretty much assured my friends and family that while, yes, I was alive, don't expect that I was going to stay alive, and damn sure don't expect this guy to come back to this area code, should he somehow miraculously not croak. Yet here I am, saying hi to you all on Metafilter on a rainy Thursday night. So anyways, I've told my doc and I've told my friends, absolutely make sure that the game is over. But then yank the cord.

If it's Alzheimer's, I'd love to take a jug of helium out into the wilds, then let the animals take over. Dust to dust, etc. But it's not fair that I take these eyes out of here when someone could use them to see a beautiful painting or their granddaughters smile. Plus I have this manic depression thing going on, and Harvard* wants my brain, and I want them to have it; imagine if it could help someone, how great it would be if some doc studying it could help some poor bastard down the line.
*I've never mentioned it here, as it could be seen as bragging, but Harvard was named after my uncle Harvey, my tathers oldest brother. So you can see how giving to Harvard would sortof be keeping it in the family.

My vision is weirded out, when my eyes get tired -- reading glasses are a way of life. I made fun of my sister when her eyes fell out of her head, at 40, three years later I breezed past 40 still Ha Ha Ha ! at her for about four more years but then it started, and now I'm screwed. VERY annoying. Thank god for dollar stores, right? My memory is slipping, I've got all these tip of the tongue moments, I see every one of them as flippin' Alzheimer's staking out it's ground, I check in with my friends who are my age, whose wives are my age, and they laugh at me, and tell me to shut up. Two years ago next month, I had The Bike Wreck From Hell, Austin likes to pretend it's a bicycle town but don't buy it, I turned around to look behind me and my front wheel went into a wide open storm grate -- it's unreal, they're death -- and I wear clips and I was married to the bike, couldn't kick free in time, I broke a bunch of bones in my face, ripped my shoulder apart, tore the muscle right off the bone. (ALWAYS were glasses when you ride; I'd be blind in my left eye had I not been wearing riding glasses. Yes, they're expensive. Get over it.) I have had a couple of more wrecks -- none as good as that first one -- and am now not riding, not on the streets; I'm spooked off that bike. VERY annoying -- I love to ride. I'm okay on the trails, but on the roads I'm all the time trying to be conscious of who is going to run my ass down from behind, and then things in front get all south-footed and crossways and I'm over the handlebars. Fuck.

So I've got these limitations, and it blows, for real. But as long as I'm not crippled in my head, as long as I can see how beautiful this place is, I'd love to stay. I get to give to others -- I mentor some younger guys, I've not had the luck to have children but I love these fine young men, hard as I know how to -- and I have others that give to me. I know how lucky I am, in that I get to be here, I know that there's an awful lot of rough things going down -- I'm not blind -- but I also know how beautiful this thing is.

Step outside and look at the stars. Or if it's cloudy, hey, that's okay, too -- it's all part of the show. But the stars -- I don't have the head for physics, I cannot follow where Feynman led, and Einstein, and that's just grievous to me. But I've been able to follow them far enough to ponder gravity, and light, and time, and sex, and how long it's taken for this little ball of stone and mud and water to churn up mountains, and dragon flies, and beavers, and Republicans, I can ponder black holes, and stars exploded or exploding, and red giants, and dwarf stars (and dwarfs -- why not?), and not just stars beyond counting but flippin' galaxies beyond counting, from where I sit on my little lily pad I can look up and know that I am looking 14 billion fucking years across and into Time. I get to look at it and consider it.

Isn't it just the best?

I'd like to be able to do this for more than 15 more years.
posted by dancestoblue at 11:13 PM on September 18, 2014 [5 favorites]


I was just discussing this with my mother. She is 71 years old, and perfectly fit and able. I was noting that 75 or 80 sounds about right in the abstract to me, but when I look at her and at my uncles, it seems too young. She allowed as how 75 or 80 still sounded right to her.

My husband wants to live as close to forever as he can get -- every hour, every minute. Me and my mom? Not so much. It sounds exhausting.
posted by DarlingBri at 11:37 PM on September 18, 2014


It was a mistake to decide to read this thread first thing on a beautiful Friday morning.

Time for some serious mindfulness.
posted by digitalprimate at 12:07 AM on September 19, 2014


Here's the thing: the number is a lie. It's when you can't be you any more. That comes on slowly and you absolutely can't predict when it will happen. This "75" is just a representation. The desire to live in the face of any kind of adversity is completely dependent on who you are as an individual, not on a number you have reached. I hope I don't rot but I'll be damned if I'm going to set a bright light for myself.
posted by h00py at 6:43 AM on September 19, 2014 [5 favorites]


It's when you can't be you any more. That comes on slowly and you absolutely can't predict when it will happen.

Exactly. And when it has happened (you won't notice), and you aren't you anymore, it's too late; it's out of your hands. You effectively stop living your life and stop being capable of making even the most basic of your own decisions. Someone else (if you're lucky, a person with integrity and compassion who loves you and has adequate emotional, mental, and financial resources; but there is no guarantee, not even having raised functional adult children) becomes responsible for running your life for you as though you were a child who will not grow up. You will resent this person and not cooperate, because you don't know you're not you. You are the source of difficulties of every kind that your caretaker must deal with on your behalf, and you are mostly not grateful. You are just waiting for the rest of your body to catch up with your mind and go away.

I'm astounded at the number of people posting here who seem to think that life as they enjoy it now will just continue until they die. You don't know old people, because our society warehouses them (I call Mom's very nice independent living facility the elderzoo). Go spend some time at nursing homes and retirement facilities - not to steep yourself in sadness and futility, though there will be that, but to see the vast differences in how people age, and their hugely variable qualities of life, and get some idea of the plans you need to make for yourself while you still have some say. (Besides, as I've recently discovered, old people are fascinating.) Observe the vanishingly small number of them who are playing golf, tennis, and bridge, and having dinner at the club, even if they could afford it. Your odds of spending your old age like notreally describes are worse than the odds you'll win the Powerball jackpot.
posted by caryatid at 9:09 AM on September 19, 2014 [4 favorites]


My friend Nancy is 80 and still lives on her own, teaches piano, organizes our annual block party, does some of her gardening and all her cooking and housekeeping, is involved in politics, bakes cookies for the neighborhood kids, and tells me inappropriate jokes. She's lived in the same house for over 50 years, where she single-handedly raised four girls. She's great. I hope to be like her as I age.

She never drove, because of poor eyesight from an early age, so she'd already set herself up with the infrastructure she uses now that she needs a walker to get around: she lives near a bus stop and a grocery store, she has friends to call for the occasional trip to Costco or to take her cat to the vet, she knows everyone in the area.

I know people who are 20 or 25 years younger than her and seem so much older. It isn't just health; Nancy has had more than her fair share of medical issues, and the people I'm thinking of don't have dementia or anything along those lines. I think community involvement is a huge part of my friend's success. She's able to continue to live in her own house despite her frailty because she has so many people who care about her. We each do a little (one of my kids takes her recycling to the curb, someone else cleans her gutters, etc.) because we like and value her.
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:23 AM on September 19, 2014 [2 favorites]


You don't know old people, because our society warehouses them (I call Mom's very nice independent living facility the elderzoo).
You realize, right, that one of the people posting here is in his mid-80s? I suspect that he knows at least as many old people as you do.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 9:24 AM on September 19, 2014 [2 favorites]


I'm 42. I've been saying "no more than 70" for some years now--I think it's reasonable and possibly achievable. I do have depression, and I don't have a lot of money. I don't see myself ever being able to retire, and the idea of doing what I do for a living until I die appalls me (hell, the idea of doing it for even ten more years upsets me, but I have family obligations and no financial resources to train for a second career that could get me even as much money as I make now). I don't see my stepkids' lives being better than mine, and I don't see myself having the financial resources to help them that my parents have had to help me. I fear the idea of losing my mental faculties because they've always been what's gotten me through life--the body is just something to be endured, and that's only going to get worse. I don't want to be a burden to anyone, and I don't know if anyone would be willing to take me on anyway.

I have a friend who's been interested in transhumanism and radical life extension for years, and I've always just sort of shaken my head at him because I never understood why anyone would want to extend their life.
posted by dlugoczaj at 9:27 AM on September 19, 2014 [2 favorites]


You don't know old people, because our society warehouses them (I call Mom's very nice independent living facility the elderzoo).

Not everyone's experience is yours - I know and am related to plenty of independent seniors. My parents are both in their mid 70s and my dad wackily enough still works nearly full-time at a job he enjoys while my mother gardens and mows the lawn every week (with a push mower). My partner's dad is in his late 70s and renovated his basement (including drywall work) last year, and he was digging potatoes (!) in their huge garden when she called him the other day.

In my own neighborhood, two of my three immediate neighbors are retired academics in their mid-70s who are still active and vigorous and working at least part time, as well as volunteering and participating in politics, and would I'm sure resent - or perhaps just laugh at - being told they're all done, game over.
posted by aught at 9:32 AM on September 19, 2014


caryatid: You don't know old people, because our society warehouses them (I call Mom's very nice independent living facility the elderzoo).
My 83yo neighbor who lives alone, and my 81yo coworker a couple cubicles away, call bullshit on your "knowledge".
posted by IAmBroom at 10:06 AM on September 19, 2014


The thing is, nobody is telling anyone else that they, the other people, are all done, game over.

People here are talking about their opinions about themselves and what they want for themselves, and not setting up supposed "death panels" to rule on anyone else's lives.
posted by hippybear at 10:13 AM on September 19, 2014


His logic is all over the place, although I sort of agree with him. These guys found that a "normal" human lifespan for hunter gatherers is roughly seven decades "before which time humans remain vigorous producers, and after which senescence rapidly
occurs and people die." So it's not like we shouldn't want to live longer than that, but maybe if we do, we should realize that in many ways, it's "extra".
posted by bennett being thrown at 10:29 AM on September 19, 2014 [1 favorite]


So I just saw the 'I'm Done at 75' article from The Atlantic linked in a place I'm not sure how I ended up at ...
Democrats seem to love death. Whether they're yammering about abortion or "end of life" planning, they just can't get enough of talking up the myriad ways people can exit life's stage. They always claim this is simply a discussion about personal responsibility and individual choice but, since they despise those ideals in virtually every other matter, it's a hard argument to buy.

Enter Ezekiel Emanuel.

Emanuel was one of the chief architects of ObamaCare and is, of course, the brother of Rahm.
Over at The Atlantic, he's penned an article about his own death and he's made a shocking announcement about the perfect age at which he hopes to die. While he very specifically rules out euthanasia, Emanuel says he hopes his ticker shuts down at the not-particularly-old age of 75.

The reason? 75 is, apparently, the perfect age for a human to buy the farm. According to Emanuel, people who live longer than that risk struggling through a less-than-perfect existence.
posted by Buttons Bellbottom at 11:45 AM on September 19, 2014


Thanks, Buttons Bellbottom. Now I have to delete my browser and reinstall my OS to cleanse my computer from having clicked through to that.
posted by hippybear at 1:38 PM on September 19, 2014 [2 favorites]


Yes, of course, many of you know a few older people who are still healthy and fit and unimpaired enough to be independent, so they're out there participating in life where you can see them. So do I. They have not reached the point where "you can't be you any more." That's not all old people.

What you don't know are the millions of old people you don't see because they don't live independently - they live in facilities: independent living, group homes, assisted living, memory care, nursing homes. Warehouses for old people. Elderzoos.

If you don't see them and how old age has affected their qualities of life in so many different ways, then you don't really know old people or how realistic your ideas of what it's like to be old are.
posted by caryatid at 2:20 PM on September 19, 2014 [1 favorite]


My own Dad is 73 and independent and fairly healthy, but since losing my Mom, his wife of 50 years, to a silent heart attack (after 6 months or so of difficult recovery from an unrelated back surgery) he does not leave the house without his carefully folded MEDICAL DIRECTIVE in the pocket of his jumpsuit carefully positioned so you can see the words MEDICAL DIRECTIVE at all times. We have a little deal; I won't let them stick a tube in him and he won't use the google to look up SUICIDE.

I don't believe he is clinically depressed. I do think you have to have a reason to get up in the morning, and most of his reasons went into the crematorium with my Mom. Once he got past the crippling grief he did some very positive things, like taking up the musical instrument he didn't play for decades again.

I have no children and one love of my life with whom I've spent over thirty years, and sometimes when I have told Dad to wait it out because it will get better and don't leave a mess for me and whatever else it takes to discourage the suicidal ideation, it has left a stain on my throat where the lies are hard to wash off.

I did what I had to do, what everyone expected and demanded even though I live 80 miles away and it's an awful logistical problem to see him very often. I am glad he's OK and I've told him (and meant it, unlike some other relatives) that I don't care what if anything I inherit. But looking to my own future, I have no children at all, not even the only child who reconnected after a 17 year estrangement and is willing to go through the motions. My wife and I have left no hostages to the possible horrors of the future, but one of us will be left with the horror of putting the other through the crematorium and figuring out what to do next.

And we've both had nasty health scares already, all fortunately fixable or false alarms. In an age without today's technology 75 wouldn't be an option for me because very recently, almost for my 50th birthday, I got a majorly clogged coronary artery that needed a stent. Minor stuff for today's doctors (and if you have healthe insurance). But they call the artery that was clogged the "widowmaker" for good reasons.

I thought my cardiologist was going to give me a pat on the head and an attaboy for coming in with just high blood pressure instead of waiting for symptoms. All of the techs who did tests on me were obviously surprised that I did.

So yeah I want to live. But I'm terrified of Alzheimers and dementia and strokes, all of which are in my family. And I know the love of my life is terrified of Alzheimer's, which is in hers.

And we both hate the idea of not working, not being productive, not doing things that justify our presence. She can't stand the idea of having a job but has still had a steady stream of projects and partnerships which have brought in money on terms acceptable to her. I've had the same job for almost as long as I've been with her but it's a fine job I enjoy and which uses my skills well and stimulates my interests.

The idea of just lounging around all day, whether in a "healthy" way or just as a bag of meat being supported by the waitstaff, is not attractive. I'd rather be ... well, in almost any other situation.
posted by localroger at 7:42 PM on September 19, 2014 [4 favorites]


localroger: "And we both hate the idea of not working, not being productive, not doing things that justify our presence. She can't stand the idea of having a job but has still had a steady stream of projects and partnerships which have brought in money on terms acceptable to her. I've had the same job for almost as long as I've been with her but it's a fine job I enjoy and which uses my skills well and stimulates my interests.

The idea of just lounging around all day, whether in a "healthy" way or just as a bag of meat being supported by the waitstaff, is not attractive. I'd rather be ... well, in almost any other situation.
"

Wow. I should give workshops on how to enjoy doing nothing. I mean, without something like travel or the occasional movie or concert I'd probably get a bit bored, but I can easily and painlessly while away an entire Saturday without doing a single, solitary, productive thing.

Consider that, assuming you have done your work and done it well, that you have done the work of your life that justifies your continuing existence. Added to which, I personally have an issue with the idea that it is a person's responsibility to work, or that this work proves their utility as a being.
posted by Deathalicious at 2:37 PM on September 20, 2014 [3 favorites]


Consider that, assuming you have done your work and done it well, that you have done the work of your life that justifies your continuing existence.

On re-reading I clearly misstated my problem. I have no interest at all in justifying my continuing existence to anyone else. It's more a matter of justifying it to myself, which gets into some pretty deep metaphysics.

Long ago I saw a wonderful cartoon mocking the usual "evolution" march of a fish through progressive forms to human. In this toon all the animals had a thought balloon as they marched.
Fish: "Reproduce!"
Amphibian: "Reproduce!"
Reptile: "Reproduce!"
Rodent: "Reproduce!"
Wolf: "Reproduce!"
Primate: "Reproduce!"
Human (gazing skyward): "What's the meaning of it all?"
Having eschewed reproduction myself for (I think excellent) reasons, and besides being done with the period of my life where that matters much, what now? Why get up in the morning? Why make the doctor's appointment when the blood pressure meter is saying crazy things?

I can while away a Saturday myself but I am usually aware of several sets of gears turning as I do. Sometimes those gears turn for years but eventually they spit out a result and I get up and do something, like building a Nixie tube clock or writing a semi-infamous web novel. Or embarking on my third attempt at a CNC lapidary mill, which in all honesty will probably fail again but at least in new and different ways.

I watch very little TV and I have no patience for games, which strike me as artificial diversions devoid of real meaning. I like a good story but the best are the ones that change you in the course of reading them, like super compressed real experience, and there aren't many of those.

While it's nice to know my work connects me to the giant web of human industry and commerce that keeps the world humming, that's not essential. I know being remembered is a fool's goal (especially when you're named Roger Williams). I know anything I do will almost certainly be lost within a generation of my passing. Lots of the things I built in the early days of my job are already in dumpsters.

But to think that I have kept myself going just to have thoughts and make observations that will stay in my head until death erases them, that will never even make a water-soluble chalk mark that might be noticed by anyone else, that just seems kind of pointless. Those systems I designed in 1988 may be in dumpsters today, but people used them and if I did my job right they made someone else's work day a little easier. The fact that I got paid for it, so that I could continue to eat and shelter, is less important to me than that.
posted by localroger at 3:41 PM on September 20, 2014 [2 favorites]


Wow. I should give workshops on how to enjoy doing nothing.

JG Ballard was big on people embracing their obsessions, seriously investigating them. From one angle, this might feel a little creepy. From another, it's just another way of saying, it's good to have a hobby.

Which reminds me of a friend's dad who, upon reaching retirement age, was rather dismissive of those contemporaries who were getting all depressed, feeling worthless, etc. "You mean to tell me you hit sixty-five and you still don't have goddamned hobby? What fun are you?"
posted by philip-random at 4:02 PM on September 20, 2014 [2 favorites]



Personally I plan to be around for the heat death of the universe. Everything else is lack of ambition.
posted by MartinWisse at 12:20 PM on September 18 [15 favorites +] [!]


You selfish HUMAN embedded in SPACETIME with your VIBRATING AND ROTATING molecules with your YOCTOKELVINIC increase of the local quadrants temperature. PAH! Slowing down the inevitable demise for the rest of us non-entropically-contributing polydimensional species. Can't you just let go for ONCE?
posted by lalochezia at 6:13 AM on September 22, 2014


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