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Monday, November 15, 2010

How Long and How Well Will I Live?

     As I move through life, now at 71 years of age, I am living a comparatively healthy, secure and happy life with a sense of purpose and self-efficacy. Most of the time I experience relatively low levels of stress.  But my father died from a cancer-caused heart attack when he was 71 and I am becoming more conscious of death.
   The search for the fountain of youth has continued for thousands of years. These days we can buy products that minimize our wrinkles and put color back in our gray hair. Or we can take even more extreme steps by having medical treatments to slow down signs of aging. Many people in the medical professions and those doing scientific research focus on aging decline such as social isolation, Alzheimer’s and heart disease.  And, so far, no anti-aging remedy on the market today has been proved effective.
    But not everyone focuses on the idea of aging decline. There are also concepts and research projects such as Successful Aging in which emphasis is placed on developing wisdom and healthy life practices. Two very readable books discussing the positive side of aging are The Healthy Aging Brain by Louis Cozolino and The Mature Mind: The Positive Power of The Aging Brain by Gene Cohen. While these individuals shine a brighter light on the aging process they accept death as the final step of life.
      Underlying the fear of aging is the fear of dying and I am not sitting on some kind of pedestal, ignoring my own worries. While I am not a religious person, I can see that one of the major benefits of going to church and having religious values is the promise of eternal life. The concept is somewhat complicated by the fact that different religions believe in different social forms of eternity. 
      While the books mentioned above and the general concepts of Successful Aging are very useful they don’t moderate my interest in living forever.  There are, of course, some possible downsides. For instance I ask myself:
1.  Would I like to live forever if at some point I’m the only person left?
2.  Would I like to live forever if I wasn’t healthy?
3.  Would I like to live forever if I were living on the Moon or Mars?
      Perhaps it’s a bit too much to ask to not only live forever but also choose what kind of environment I would like to live in.  Scientists predict that even the Universe will only last for several billion years.  What would I do after that?

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