The October 2014 issue of The Atlantic features two articles that will help open up the discussion. Gregg Easterbrook takes readers through all the possibilities of what we have to look forward to, and what resources will be available to us. Ezekiel J. Emanuel describes his plan, and the reasoning behind it, for his future at age 75 and beyond. Of the two articles, Emanuel's hit me the hardest.
Emanuel hopes to die when he's 75. He reasons that we have lost touch with Nature, and we need to let Nature take its course once we reach old age. He examines how life expectancy has changed over the last century, and how it will continue to increase in the next century. But long life expectancy does not mean a long, healthy, productive and creative life for most people. He describes the exceptions that he knows -- people in their 90's who are still contributing, productive, creative and relatively healthy. For the rest of us, we can expect to deal with chronic illness and the deterioration of our mental faculties.
|My paternal grandma at 89|
Emanuel's points about the care people need as they age cannot be ignored. Unless medicine finds a way to prevent the chronic illnesses and physical deterioration that comes with aging, we will need care when we are older. Who provides that care is a huge question. We assume family will step up to the task, but what about people who don't have family who will do that? Or friends? I personally do not want to end up in a nursing home, a ward of the state, in my old age.
|Ezekiel Emanuel (Photo: Jake Chessum)|
So, Emanuel's plan makes a lot of sense to me. Once he's 75, he plans to NOT seek medical care and will not agree to it, only palliative care. He wants nature to take its course. His article is both uplifting and frightening. I am always amazed at individuals who refuse medical treatment, even if they are right to do so. Could I? That is what really moved me about Emanuel's article -- it forced me to think about what I'd do and what I want for myself, my family and friends, as we age.
What do you think? What do you want for yourselves as you age? Do you want to live into your 90's or would you prefer to let nature take its course?