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Senior Moments

Category: News & Current Events / Topics: Demographics Trends

Life Expectancy

by Dan Seagren

Posted: July 20, 2008

Apparently the U.S. life expectancy for babies born in 2006 has nudged upward to 78.1 years…

Apparently the U.S. life expectancy for babies born in 2006 has nudged upward to 78.1 years. The recently announced details also report that death rate due to heart disease, cancer, and stroke slowed in 2006. Also, Hawaii had the lowest age-adjusted death rate among U.S. states followed by Minnesota and California. Mississippi had the highest death rate in 2006, followed by Alabama and West Virginia.

Now before you leave Mississippi or Alabama and head for Hawaii, you should be reminded that this life expectancy is for children born in 2006, not 1906. However, if you were born around 1906, your life expectancy would have been about 47 years and you’d live until about 1953. However, if you are reading this and you are a senior (65-105 years thereabouts), you may live longer than expected. And if you are a woman, you’ll live a little longer but the gap is closing.

Your longevity senior moment could be a mixed experience which depends on a lot of things. Like what? Well, for one thing, your health. If you are healthy, and enjoy life, your senior moment may be quite unlike your friend who is confined to a wheelchair, has emphysema and diabetes and hates his wake up call (if he could sleep). On the other hand, a healthy person could hate his alarm clock whereas an oldster in a wheelchair maybe can’t wait for his AM coffee.

What else could affect our longevity? In addition to health is wealth (because they rhyme). It is absolutely amazing how many people who as we say are well-off but miserable. Maybe their wheelchair has gold-plated hub caps but it can’t go any faster or further. Now again, this doesn’t mean we should jettison our wealth before we hit 65 because we may need it at 85 (or even 75). What it does mean is that wealth is no guarantee of happiness. And for that matter, poverty isn’t a guarantee either.

\Beyond health and wealth, what else? To make it rhyme, let’s try stealth. We better define this. Stealth can mean moving carefully and quietly, so as to avoid being seen. Sullen senior moments can sneak up and grab us when we isolate ourselves from neighbors and friends, family and care-givers (possibly a spouse, nurse, housekeeper, therapist, son, daughter, or a grandchild). There are numerous studies all agreeing that socialization is not only beneficial but essential.

One of the best places for this is a dining room, not a tray between you and your TV. Some people hang out in a bar night after night. Why? To erase a bad day? Maybe, but more likely for socialization. Not the best choice for many but there are excellent ways to socialize including associations, family gatherings (self-initiated if need be), church functions, clubs, concerts, plays, bingo, bridge and Dunkin Donuts to mention a few.

Little else rhymes with health, wealth and stealth. I don’t have a rhyming dictionary but I did check a couple standard dictionaries plus Roget’s Descriptive Word Finder and a unique The Dimwit’s Dictionary (not as bad as it sounds). Guess we’ll have to stick with the three: health, wealth and stealth (unless you can come up with another word that rhymes).

If you are 45 or 95, and you want to know how many more years you will live, you can check the charts but there’s no real guarantee. Longevity was not in either of the two mentioned dictionaries. Interestingly, the closest word alphabetically in Dimwit’s Dictionary was the expression long shot: A moribund metaphor. doubtful; dubious; farfetched; unlikely. We can settle for that. Longevity at best is a long shot, dubious, farfetched, remote. And so it is. As long as you are alive, live wisely and don’t worry about longevity. It will take care of itself.

Dan Seagren is an active retiree whose writings reflect his life as a Pastor, author of several books, and service as a Chaplain in a Covenant Retirement Community.

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Posted: July 20, 2008

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