Friday, May 04, 2007

Old Age Creeps Up

Before retiring to my cold basement to edit, I spent some time in the sun drinking coffee, smoking a cigarette (I know, I know - I need stress relief right now, so there!!) and reading this highly disturbing article in The New Yorker about aging (which quickly made me regret the cigarette).

Here are some excerpts but I recommend reading the whole thing (here) to be properly scared shitless :

"After all, for most of our hundred-thousand-year existence—all but the past couple of hundred years—the average life span of human beings has been thirty years or less. (Research suggests that subjects of the Roman Empire had an average life expectancy of twenty-eight years.)

Today, the average life span in developed countries is almost eighty years. If human life spans depend on our genetics, then medicine has got the upper hand. We are, in a way, freaks living well beyond our appointed time."

- "The Way We Age Now" by Atul Gawande, April 30th, The New Yorker Magazine

By all rights, I should be dead now that I am over 30. Hell, in Roman times I would be ancient! So I plan to enjoy every damn miserable moment I get on this planet as my organs harden, my teeth fall out, my eyes get worse, my feet become unattended, my inner hard drives fail, my prescriptions increase and I slowly begin to fall apart...

"Nonetheless, as the defects in a complex system increase, the time comes when just one more defect is enough to impair the whole, resulting in the condition known as frailty. It happens to power plants, cars, and large organizations. And it happens to us: eventually, one too many joints are damaged, one too many arteries calcify. There are no more backups. We wear down until we can’t wear down anymore."
- "The Way We Age Now" by Atul Gawande, April 30th, The New Yorker Magazine

And to make matters worse, there are not enough doctors to deal with all us aging, malfunctioning factories! Who wants to deal with machines that are falling apart when you can work with nicely oiled, brand new machines?

All of this reminds me of an ethnography I wrote in college connecting an old age home to American's obsession with horror movies. My thesis was that we are so afraid of the decline of our bodies that we hide the evidence away in nursing homes. Still, we are fascinated by the inevitable process, so we indulge in horror movies with decrepit zombies falling apart and trying to eat us as a way to indulge our hidden fears.

We are all gonna die. Some sooner than others. There it is. Sucks.

So all we have is this moment, the present. I guess I am glad I had that coffee and a ciggie (a heavenly combo if there ever was one) and sun/reading break (also heavenly combo) after all.


S.R. Wild said...

The Ménage à trois of nicotine, caffeine, and me is the only thing that keeps me alive. But, it’s also what might prevent me from turning 30.

Damn, I was going to post a scene from Wings of Desire where Peter Falk (my hero) introduces the angel, Damiel, to the coffee and cigarette combo. Instead, here’s Tom Waits and Iggy Pop in Coffee & Cigarettes.

Junk Thief said...

Why is it that the really mean ones like Augustin Pinochet and Leni Riefenstahl live forever? Maybe they didn't need caffeine and nicotine to keep their engines burning. Luckily I never succumbed to the latter but still try to cut back on the former.

I'm probably mean enough too to live to a disgusting old age.

Nervous Pete said...

Augustin Pinochet and the like live forever to make us feel better about dying young. Even though Augustin is finally dead, his buddy Margaret Thatcher's still alive, giving us no opportunity to 'stamp the dirt down'. I mean, who'd want to share a nursing home with those two? ("Are you equating the old with inherent evil, or something, Pete?" - ed.)

Anyway, if I sound like I'm in a bad mood then I am. I've just found that I can't get at any of DBC videos on You Tube as the account has been suspended. This is a bit distressing, and I hope it gets fixed, whatever did it, Eva!

Now I'm off to Chapter Arts indie Cinema & Arts centre to watch 'The Red Shoes', as that was my first DBC video I watched, and as I've never seen it on the big screen.

Longevity Science said...

Thank you for your interesting comments!
I thought perhaps you may also find this related post and a subsequent discussion interesting to you:
Longevity Science: The Way We Age

Chris said...

With regard to today's average lifespan, vs. ancient world norms: I am 38 and my way of looking at it is, nature is done with me now, the rest is gravy. I really do believe that some day humans will live even longer lives than we do today though, with even higher quality of life. Which I guess isn't really a controversial point of view.