As I keep consistently adding birthdays, for which I am grateful, I notice things that have changed about myself. I am surely wiser about things than I once was, but creaky noises come from my knees, and I’ll never benchpress 120 pounds again. Maybe I can’t remember names and what I did yesterday as well as before. I think about what’s going to happen to me as the years march on, not knowing how many years or what quality of life I may have.
I know people who have set a goal for how many birthdays they want to have, often with a quality-of-life caveat. I’ve seen in my own family how body and mind can become cruel masters of our abilities to function and to enjoy ourselves. Doctors can be quick to hand out prescriptions for medications that may not be needed or can do more harm than good, before patients are willing to change how they treat themselves. Every pill has a price. I’ve read a well-respected doctor’s commentary that said studies show 60 percent of people over 65 take five more more prescriptions. One in five take ten or more. One in 20 take at least 15. Some people benefit from physical activity, doing things that use their brains, or having a pet, more to lessen their focus on their personal problems, rather than taking antidepressants. I am NOT saying that some people do not need medications to treat their conditions, or that anyone should just stop taking medications their doctors prescribe.
I watched a show about people in their 90s who are active and able to do things that I never could and likely never will. Their spirit may have been crushed in the past, but they keep going, striving, living. One woman at the gym recently told me she is 89 years old this year, with double hip replacements. It made me wonder, how many more decades will I be there working out? Jeez, I’ve been doing this for 40 years already!
I also heard that while the body can reasonably last until about 99 years, generally life expectancy is about 12 years less, so we’re leaving 12 years on the table. Someone born in 2015 could live on average to about 78.8 years. Social Security calculations estimate that I might live to between 86 to 88 years, based on my gender and year of birth. They say a man at 65 today can expect to live until about 84 (on average), and a woman to about 86 (on average). And one of every four 65-year-olds today could live past 90, one in ten past 95.
I see people ruining themselves with their lifestyle choices and/or the hand they have been dealt with illness and injury, genetics and circumstances. Some manage to overcome terrible obstacles. Some are able to wring the life out of every year, with what some might call “hard living” and make it beyond 100.
I guess that I’m not looking to reach a number, to meet a particular age. I hope I can keep learning, loving, creating, moving, enjoying and growing as much as I can. Maybe I can manage a better way to give back to the world than what I’m doing now. There is so much anger and division in the world these days, perhaps I can find a way to bridge the gap a little between the people around me. Hatred and bitterness can’t do much for enjoying our lifetime sharing this earth. I’ll give it my best shot. Might just need a few extra naps and keep using my mind and body as much as I can. I’ll expect a positive life, not a life expectancy figure.