Tuesday, September 04, 2007

"The Coming Death Shortage" -- certainly not a shortage

The last paragraph seems to negate the 12 previous pages of this interesting article by Charles C. Mann in The Atlantic.com by saying that "nobody precisely knows how to engineer major increases in the human lifespan" (Mann 13). Funny because I swear he stated throughout many scientists who are offering pills to increase lifespan by 10 years to stem cell freezing useful when your heart decides to fail...years later. But Mann followed this statement the mantra that I heard clearly: we all will live longer, the research is ready to use, and many are willing to pay the big tickets to extend our lives. Mann said it metaphorically, "...lifespans will stretch like taffy" (13). Being so visual I picture the watermelon pink candy stretching slowly, with its candied sinews glistening, yet soon, I picture the middle. I see it thin and break as if arms unable to hold on any longer. I wonder if it's a larger metaphor for the end of life, rather than how our age will continue to lengthen. Will it seem smooth at first? Effortless and attractive, but right at the end, break with hardly a fight?

I also think of Huxley's 1930 novel Brave New World, and remember their world that lacked aging; one could not tell the difference between a 50 year old or a 20 year old. Very attractive for many, if not most today. But in Huxley's dystopia, age stopped at 60. People became useless; they could impact the appearance of life longevity, but their bodies still would not comply to the effectiveness of a younger Alpha or Beta. Will we be useless at 90? I think of my mother-in-law, who sadly died at 49 from a severe case of MS. Visiting her weekly, sometimes daily, I was struck at her over-medicated state. Zombies wheeled from one "event" to another. Only a few residents were talking and smiling. Some were muttering, but conversations were not happening between residents. We moved to 4 different homes, offended at her trancelike state. Surprisingly, at one home, after many heated meetings, we were able to have her only taking her MS medicines. She was lively, had a bird in her room, put on make-up and wore her favorite jewelry. She even met a man she married a year later, moving out of the home; we continued to see her fluid state, until her health really failed. My point of all this is: this was in the 90's. She was young and hardly a nuisance. What would happen in the 2030's with overstuffed nursing homes with understaffed workers; will the sedation be overwhelmingly used? Is this our aging future?

Labels: ,


At 10:01 PM, Blogger Karl Fisch said...

Interesting questions. But I think the hope and the promise is that not only will we live longer, but that we will be healthier longer. Most of the stuff I've read indicates that many folks will be very healthy and active into their 80's and 90's, much as many folks today are healthy and active into their 60's and 70's.

Remember it wasn't so long ago when a healthy and active 65 year old was a wonder to behold. That's part of the issue with Social Security. When it was designed they factored in that most people wouldn't live very long past 65, so they didn't have to worry about paying benefits out for very long. Oops . . .


Post a Comment

<< Home