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Saturday, September 20, 2014

We may all live to be 100—but do we really want to?

I just read a very long article stating that many of us will live a lot longer in the near future—maybe past 100, on MSN. The article looked at some of the changes we can expect from a longer lifespan—both for ourselves and others.
My fist thoughts are that I would like to live to 100, but not if I have to take all the advice on healthy living—lots of “nos.”
There is no red meat; no drinking; no smoking; no to sitting idle and watching too much TV and we should all work to an older age in our lives—way past the present retirement age from 62 to 70.
Once I start adding up all the negatives I have to wonder if I really want to live that long. But before we make up our minds let’s look at the article and it predictions.


“Longer life has obvious appeal, but it entails societal risks. Politics may come to be dominated by the old, who might vote themselves ever more generous benefits for which the young must pay. Social Security and private pensions could be burdened well beyond what current actuarial tables suggest. If longer life expectancy simply leads to more years in which pensioners are disabled and demand expensive services, health-care costs may balloon as never before, while other social needs go unmet.”
We can see the results of some of these things already. The whole issue of raising the retirement age is an example of this. The last generation gets socialized medicine and a small, but adequate pension, along with other benefits for those above 62. But members of this very generation want to raise the retirement age to 70 and above. This means young people now will not have access to all these benefits for eight more of their years. Some pundits are warning that people over 55 will have a hard time finding jobs if they lose the job they have before retirement age. Many employers don’t want to hire people that old. Also people’s health is not keeping up with the longer lifespan. That means a lot of people will live longer, but they will have more expensive medical needs and they won’t have access to Medicare until the age of 70. This could be a disaster waiting for those who try to retire 20 years from now.
Again from MSN:
“Society is dominated by the old - old political leaders, old judges. With each passing year, as longevity increases, the intergenerational imbalance worsens. The old demand benefits for which the young must pay, while people in their 20s become disenchanted, feeling that the deck is stacked against them. National debt increases at an alarming rate. Innovation and fresh thinking disappear as energies are devoted to defending current pie-slicing arrangements…
The problem of aging leadership
As the population ages, so do the political powers that be - and they’re aging in place. Computerised block-by-block voting analysis and shameless gerrymandering - Maryland’s new sixth congressional district is such a strange shape, it would have embarrassed Elbridge Gerry - lock incumbents into power as never before. Campaign-finance laws appear to promote reform, but in fact have been rigged to discourage challengers. Between rising life expectancy and the mounting power of incumbency, both houses of Congress are the oldest they’ve ever been: the average senator is 62 years old; the average representative, 57.
A graying Congress would be expected to be concerned foremost with protection of the status quo. Government may grow sclerotic at the very time the aging of the populace demands new ideas. “There’s already a tremendous advantage to incumbency,” one experienced political operative told me. “As people live longer, incumbents will become more entrenched. Strom Thurmond might not be unusual anymore. Many from both parties could cling to power too long, freezing out fresh thinking. It won’t be good for democracy.” The speaker was no starry-eyed radical: he was Karl Rove….”
Again we see a lot of this now. Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach is an example of a politicians working hard to entrench the Republican Party all across the country with voting restrictions (disguised as anti-fraud) that are not only being implemented in Kansas, but he is traveling around the country to help other states enact the same restrictions. The restrictions affect many minorities, especially new immigrants who do not always have the proper paper work to prove when and where they were born.
The Koch Brothers and their allies have been busting unions and they have been recorded at fundraiser bragging that by “knee-capping the unions” they can cut into the supporters of the Democratic Party. Many people are now calling the Republicans and/or the Tea Party as the party of “angry white men.” And we can add to that “OLD angry white men.”
This phenomenon explains why there are so many politicians in Wichita, Kansas and nationally who seem incapable of thinking outside the box. They are rigid and seem oblivious to the changes that have gone on for the last 30 years such as gay rights, changing views on marijuana and needed changes in their attitude towards environmental issues. Many of those politicians are stuck in the past and they are keeping us stuck in there with them. Our politics seem dominated by dullards and obvious dolts.


One prediction of the future is that older people will retire later and spend more years in the workforce:
“If medical interventions to slow aging result in added years of reasonable fitness, life might extend in a sanguine manner, with most men and women living longer in good vigor, and also working longer, keeping pension and health-care subsidies under control. Indeed, the most-exciting work being done in longevity science concerns making the later years vibrant, as opposed to simply adding time at the end.”
The big question here is how many of us really WANT to keep working after the age of 70? For some of us the desire to quit working is less about our health and more about spending quality time doing things we find more worthwhile. For me there is a difference in the writing I do that may have a positive effect on society’s consciousness as opposed to just shit work, such as putting beans in cans for a factory. We want to feel our lives are not just making money and being productive but also contributing something positive and meaningful in society.
There is also the desire for autonomy. To get jobs today, most employers want to drug test us. They want to see what we post on social media such as Facebook. Some companies want to punish their workers for leading unhealthy lifestyles, such as being overweight or drinking a lot. People can be fired for political opinions that they express on line. Many employers feel they have a right to control the moral or religious beliefs of there employees. An example of that is the recent Supreme Court decision to let Hobby Lobby refuse to provide certain types of birth control for their women employees. 
Early this year, Otto’s War Room reported on Jim Hillhouse, president of Alpha Testing, that he thinks of his employees as “rebellious teenagers” That is from an interview he gave to NPR in reaction to the US Supreme Court’s decision on Hobby Lobby—where certain birth control medicines violate his religious beliefs.
Hillhouse actually said: ‘You go by my rules if you want to live here.’—in response to any of his employees who have a disagreement with his anti-choice position. He actually talked of them as if there were just his children.
Then there is the freedom of speech issue. About a year ago I reported that Meagan May was fired from her job for criticizing the military. I often print my name in Khmer letters to prevent me from getting fired over controversial things I post online. Other political radicals use pen names. The point is that we can’t practice full freedom of speech as long as we have a job.
So basically employers control our lives. They seem to believe that THEY have the right to decide our moral and religious beliefs, health decisions that affect us and even our political opinions. It is if we never really get to grow up and leave home. Some even see us as rebellious teenagers. The only time we get treated as adults is when we retire and they CAN’T take our living away when we don’t show proper obedience to the states we live under.
What I want in old age—in retirement is FREEDOM!  
We don’t need any patronizing parental figures running our lives.

Life styles

Another important aspect of living longer are the sacrifices we must make to do it. Some are not so bad, such as education;
The single best yardstick for measuring a person’s likely life span is education. John Rowe, a health-policy professor at Columbia University and a former CEO of Aetna, says, “If someone walked into my office and asked me to predict how long he would live, I would ask two things: What is your age, and how many years of education did you receive?”
Since I already have a college degree, a teaching certificate, a journalism endorsement and half a masters in special education that I was never able to finish because there were no jobs for me to take, I already have an education. I’m not sure how that makes me more likely to live longer, but I choose to believe it will help. After all, since I have the education—why not?
Other things from that article are less inspirational, such as the usual trashing of America’s favorite bad habits; drinking alcohol, Smoking and eating red meat;
Researchers at the Buck Institute are lean: society’s obesity problems are not in evidence there. Everyone takes the stairs; elevators are viewed as strictly for visitors. If there is a candy machine on the 488-acre grounds, it is well hidden. I met some researchers for lunch in a glass-and-chrome conference room (Buck’s buildings were designed by I. M. Pei and fairly shout “Give me an architecture award!”). Lunch was an ascetic affair: water and a small sandwich with greens; no sides, soda, or cookies. (Brian) Kennedy says he seldom eats lunch, and runs up to 20 miles weekly. Yet, even doing everything right by the lights of current assumptions about how to stave off aging, at age 47, Kennedy has wrinkle lines around his eyes.
Except with regard to infectious diseases, medical cause and effect is notoriously hard to pin down. Coffee, salt, butter: good, bad, or neither? Studies are inconclusive. Why do some people develop heart disease while others with the same habits don’t? The Framingham Heart Study, in its 66th year and following a third generation of subjects, still struggles with such questions. You should watch your weight, eat more greens and less sugar, exercise regularly, and get ample sleep. But you should do these things because they are common sense - not because there is any definitive proof that they will help you live longer….
I find the older I get, the less I want to give up things like red meat. I do eat other foods, vegetables and fish for example, which are recommended for a healthy diet. But there are times when I really want a large stake cooked rare. Many of us are not suppose to drink alcohol and that includes me, due to having had hepatitis for the last decade. But the disease is gone and I really enjoy a pint of beer or glass of wine now and then. I don’t get drunk anymore, but I don’t like to have to restrict too much of my diet. I also like to drink a Coke or Pepsi once in a while and I’m not supposed to have those either.
I think the real issue is not that people as I don’t want to live 100 years…I’m sure that would be swell. But the quality of life is just as important to me as the quantity. I don’t want to do ANYTHING just to live longer. I want to be happy and comfortable. I am now 59 and I want to enjoy the years I have left. I’m willing to compromise—healthier foods most of the time—but at times I eat and drink what I want.
As for our political and economic system—I eventually want a revolution—in the mean time, everyone has to make adjustments and that doesn’t mean to just take from one class of people and give EVERYTHING to another. Older people have a right to the health care they need and fare treatment in the work place. Don’t expect us to work for more of the years of our lives without fare treatment with the benefits we deserve.
Let US decide how we will live out our final years.
- សតិវ អតុ

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