Longevity and Aging – “A Good Life?”

In August of 2022, a Japanese woman by the name of Kane Tanaka died at the amazing age of 119, just two weeks shy of the biblical 120. When questioned at her 116th birthday what was her best diet for staying healthy and living a long life, her answer was simple, “I appreciate anything I eat.” When Mrs. Tanaka died she became the world’s oldest recorded person. She, in fact, lived seven years longer than the oldest American veteran of World War II.

The current average life span for a Japanese woman today is 87.7 years and 81.6 for a man. And the statistics continue growing! Government data reports that at present, Japan has the greatest number of centenarians (100 years plus) than any other country. As of August 2021 there were 86,000 individuals in Japan who have turned 100 in a country with a population of 125 million.

A question that frequently arises when engaged in conversation concerning the concept known as longevity is, “how old is old?” According to a recent study by the researchers Goldsmith and Neiens, “Individuals constantly fail to identify with their actual chronological classification.” This is not some new idea! We have, for too long known that the very old feel as if they were living a “middle aged” existence. There are several studies pointing out that age can be biologic, sociologic, subjective or even role referenced. Old is then a subjective concept!

One can feel old when occupying a role that is typically held by younger folks and the old feel young when maintaining a healthy approach to life.

When reflecting on the expectations society holds about the aged, researchers call them an “aging phenomenon.” The answer appears as a hopeful sign and promise for a long life.

According to the research, “A maximum life span is the time reached by the last surviving member of a cohort group. It is usually independent of environment and is determined genetically and with the characteristics of that species.” According to the researcher Walford, “The species life span does not depend on habit, custom, or food quality, but on fixed laws that regulate biologically the number of human years.”

There is a growing belief that with numerous advances in modern technology, we will someday be able to totally conquer the so-called pre-determined view of human mortality. Longevity has been the goal of humans from time immemorial. The possibility of living one’s full life span and beyond has increased exponentially due to medical and technological discoveries and the eradication of a host of virulent diseases. However, for the moment, an extended life span remains outside the reach of most persons.

In 1992, Life magazine first featured aging with a question, “Can We Stop Aging,” and as a follow up, “Do We Want To?” The notion of prolonged longevity with an endless life-span as a possibility, periodically re-emerges just as fads and fashion tend to change with time. We often hear from gerontologists that life expectancy around 100 years ago stood at 48 years. However, it currently hovers somewhere in the 70+ range.

The implication is that in 100 years or sooner, many of us, and that includes future generations, will live well over 100, just as Mrs. Tanaka, who died at 119.

Scientists have aggressively been working to unlock the genetic code and the secrets of DNA.

Here are several comments on global aging. As you peruse them, try visualizing an aging population with a future that will eventually influence local and world politics, a burgeoning economy and an increased demand for a more complex medical approach to patient care.

Sweden – considered the world’s oldest country with an aging population.
Japan continues experiencing longest life expectancy, worldwide.
China has more than twice as many aged citizens 65+.

What then does a longer life have to offer? Longer life can be translated in several ways, either by added years of good health or years living with a disability or in a vegetative state. It therefore becomes necessary for scientists and gerontologists to invest more of their knowledge, time and investigation into the complexities of aging.

The following are several questions that offer a glimpse into how society focuses on the aging process and how they express their support for a healthy and productive life in the years ahead.

  1. Does an altered attitude toward the aged reflect how society treats their accomplishments and long years of extensive experiences?
  2. Under which circumstances are the elderly more than likely to become pre-occupied with their mortality?
  3. Can a serious illness or disabling condition foster a decline in one’s mental and physical health? If so, are the elderly prepared for the inevitable limitation of longer life?

Final thoughts: When addressing the meaning of the term longevity and what it suggests, it is thought of as an opportunity for pursuing a long and healthy life. But what about a good life? What is a “good life?” The following points explore the basis for this phenomenon.

  1. Have sufficient funds to live comfortably and be prepared to give aid to others when requested.
  2. Maintain one’s physical strength and mental outlook as a positive value for living well.
  3. Seek spiritual guidance for personal as well as emotional growth and for those who may wish to participate.
  4. Cultivate a loving relationship with family and friends for the benefits gained in human satisfaction.
  5. Make yourself available to those who are ill or are in dire straits and may require your intervention when called upon.
  6. Establish with community, professional peers and close family members, “a good name” as a character reference.
  7. Find a partner for life who can commit and share the frailties and successes upon finding each other.

In closing, might I suggest after reading the above points concerning a good life, that you pursue them as your guide for what is called a “daily mental nourishment.”

Quotable Quote: “A good life is within realizable possibilities if you can fill the present with welcoming opportunities.” - Sheorn
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