Last week I made the argument that humans were probably meant to live long lives since our children take so long to mature. But as medical and technological advances increase how long we live, how will we be affected biologically, ecologically, and culturally?
Biologically- When polled, most people say they would not want to live longer, let alone forever. It might have something to do with how we perceive old age, as a time of declining mental and physical health. If we live longer, won’t we just take longer to die?
According to Healthy at 100 by John Robbins, an average person in the Western world one century ago spent just 1% of his or her life in a morbid or ill state. The average adult today spends more than 10% of his or her life sick. With the current average life span somewhere near 80 years, that’s a significant chunk of time, and money, spent battling health conditions.
Robbins further asserts that with our long life spans and short health spans, the average American may be destined to care for elderly parents longer than we care for children. If we continue to lengthen the human lifespan, we must also combat age related disease and the effects of aging. Even more daunting, we have to convince people to take better care of themselves to avoid age-related diseases that can’t easily be cured. What kind of burden waits if we can’t cure or reverse the ravages of aging? Living forever might look pretty good, if we didn’t have to get old.
Tomorrow I’ll post possible ecological affects of living not just longer, but indefinitely.