What if 100 is the new 77?
(No. 77) Polyamorous seniors, a breathing pillow, and Pharoah Sanders, by Stephen P. Williams
Happy spring, everyone. (If I’m too early, we’ll just say it again in a few weeks.) Photo by Arno Smit
Honestly, these pillows could put Tinder out of business.
I do love the reassuring feeling of someone breathing in bed beside me as I fall asleep. Since that rarely happens these days, I might just buy this version of the pillow in the video below. One study has shown that using a pillow that simulates a person breathing can reduce anxiety, which can help with sleep.
Is 100 the new 77?
I wonder what it feels like to be 99 years old and looking forward to the coming year’s birthday celebration. Do you feel competitive, willing to do anything to make it to that 100 candle blowout? What would a fashionable 100-year-old wear to their centennial party?
When you are 100, do the drop down menus that list the year of your birth go back far enough? (Already, at 64, I have to scroll for what seems like several minutes to find the year 1958, which is a waste of my precious longevity). When you hit 100, do you start thinking about what celebratory vacation you’d like to take when you top 110? When you turn 100, do you finally give up the idea that you might one day be a well-known painter, even though you’ve never held a brush? What’s it like when even your grandkids start to look old? Can you finally start saying you are old at 100, rather than middle-aged? Is 100 the new 90?
Finally, will it be ok if I eat 100 warm glazed donuts on my 100th birthday, because, well, there won’t be that much to lose?
There is a point to all this. Apparently, 100 will soon be the new 77, if a recent report from the Stanford Center for Longevity holds up. The center’s New Map of Life says that children born today in prosperous countries (low-income countries have worse health outcomes) will likely live to 100. The average lifespan in the US now is 77 (down from 78.8 in 2019), compared to an average of 80.4 among other more developed countries. By contrast, the life expectancy of people in the Central African Republic is 53. This stark inequity puts the idea of hating my neck wattles, or complaining about ageism in perspective. I’ve got it pretty good, by virtue of my birth, all things considered.
In the US we are all encouraged -- or is it required? -- to want more, no matter what. Our entire economic rationale is based on buying and consuming or disposing of stuff. It’s a safe guess that marketers and the plutocrats they service will love the idea of people living to be 100.
That’s unfortunate, because we have a potentially huge problem if everyone lives -- and consumes -- longer. Our planet is already strained. Need we add to that?
I would like to live for 36 more years, to 100, if I can be healthy and mobile while I do it. But it seems unlikely that all the physical issues of aging -- blown out knees, spine problems, and other debilitating effects of very old age -- will disappear. There will just be more of us suffering these problems. Sure, we can park all of our ancients in community centers where nostalgic Facebook videos roll constantly through Oculus headsets while detached robot arms gently massage bony socked feet. But that doesn’t seem like a good, healthy life.
Since we’re going to live longer, we need to think about how we’re going to live longer well. And how we’re going to pay for it. (About half of households headed by a person 55 or older in the United States have no retirement savings, according to the Government Accountability Office.)
It’s not abstract. Those of us who are over 50 right now are going to be the test subjects for this grand experiment of a planet full of centenarians. We’re probably going to be a little healthier, thanks to all the scientific breakthroughs that will happen in the next decade. Let’s show all the young whippersnappers how to do it right.
Music for contemplation and joy
Aging in Ukraine right now
A market in Kiev, before the war. Photo by Adrianna Kaczmarek on Unsplash
Over one-fifth of Ukraine’s nearly 10 million people (before the war and mass migration) are over age 60, and the aged population is the fastest growing group. According to HelpAge International, an organization whose mission is to “promote the well-being and inclusion of older people in low and middle-income countries,” older people have for years made up at least one third of Ukrainians who have been most affected by the border conflicts that have now expanded into a full-fledged, countrywide war. Before the current invasion by Russia, many elderly Ukrainians who lived in the disputed territories had to cross borders into official Ukraine in order to collect their pensions or receive other benefits. They’ve had to deal with long lines at checkpoints, lack of transportation, food and water, and toilets. Not to mention landmines, rockets and bullets. Now the expanding war is turning elderly people across the country into refugees.
Help Age International has worked with the Ukrainian elderly for a decade, setting up support groups, supplying toiletries and medical devices, and more. Now, with the war in effect, the demands for their services have increased. Help Age says this is what the elderly face in this war:
Difficulty escaping the fighting, because of physical limitations.
Isolation and mental health issues.
Loss of income.
Poor or damaged housing.
No health care.
No access to canes, walkers, suitable toilets.
Help age isn’t asking for your money. It’s asking for your awareness about how the elderly are marginalized in Ukraine, and in the 157 other countries where it has partnerships. Imagine walking 50 miles to the border using a cane.
Here’s a quote from the HelpAge website:
“I'm afraid that it will be like in the war [World War 2]. I was five years old when the war started and remember how military vehicles were driving down the street. There was nothing to eat. We had to eat grass.
“If the war breaks out, I'll stay at home. There is a cellar in my yard, but I won't be able to reach it. I hope my neighbors don't leave me, God bless them. People suffer, they live in fear, everyone is worried and afraid.”
— Lydia, 86, Ukraine
I will be frank: this newsletter is a one person operation and that one person (me) spends a lot of hours producing it every week. I love writing this stuff, but need to earn money for my work, and to cover production expenses. I will continue to offer a free portion of the newsletter to everyone, but from now on, paid subscribers will get valuable additional stories, links, recommendations and videos. Click subscribe, to access premium stuff. Or send ether to spw.eth and leave me a note, if you prefer to pay that way.
I am happy to gift a subscription to anyone who would have trouble paying the $5 per month, or $50 per year (a $10 savings). Just send me an email and I’ll send you a link. Thank you, everyone.
Behind today’s paywall, paid subscribers will have access to these stories:
Exposure to leaded gas decades ago has blunted the IQ of half of Americans
Newsletters and organizations I recommend
Newsworthy links about ethical nonmonagamy; Is Something Wrong; and a grandson searches for his grandfather’s meaning
A fantastic short animated film about a man’s quest to know his grandfather
Please join us.
Keep reading with a 7-day free trial
Subscribe to Stephen's People to keep reading this post and get 7 days of free access to the full post archives.