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Back to Methuselah

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How long would you like to live?

The caveman probably only managed to make it to 20 or so years. In the time of Charlemagne, 800 AD, the life expectancy was about 35 years, although Charlemagne himself lived to 72 years.

An American girl born in 1900 had a life expectancy of 48.9 years. By 1995, the life expectancy for females had increased to 79 years. In 2002 the Centers for Disease Control and the National Center for Health Statistics, USA, reported a life expectancy for women to be 79.9 years, and 74.7 years for men.

This is low compared to Japan. In 2003, the Ministry of Health reported that Japanese women have set a new record for life expectancy of 85.3 years, and men could expect to live 78.3 years. This year, 2004, the number of Japanese who are 100 years old or more, has surged to a record-high 23,038, making Japan the world’s longest-living country.

Thanks to increased living standards, improved diet and medical care, many of the diseases that used to shorten our lives, have now been eradicated. Indeed some scientists have predicted that future life expectancy will be about 120 years.

Complan Active conducted a poll of 1,000 British people recently. They found that 52% would not wish to have a life expectancy of 120 years, preferring instead to live a full and active life until 80.

While longevity is increasing in the developed world, it is decreasing in some of the developing world, thanks to aids. In Mozambique, the Ministry of Health reported the life expectancy is estimated at 38.1 years, compared to 46.4 years before the aids epidemic. In Zambia, the Human Development Report in 2003 compiled by United Nations Development Program puts the life expectancy at 33.4 years, one of the lowest in the world.

Methuselah is recorded to have lived to the age of 969, making him the longest-lived human. Indeed in the Old Testament it was not unusual for people to live to several hundred years old.

If medical science were able to reprogram your genes to enable you to live to Methuselah’s age, perhaps to achieve immortality, would you want to live forever?

Woody Allen might, when he said: “I don’t want to achieve immortality through my work. I want to achieve it through not dying.”

However, I would think of my classmate who retired at the age of 30 years, thanks to a fat inheritance. If he had more than 900 years left to live, what would he do for the rest of his time? What quality of life would he expect?

It’s a chilling thought. Brrrrrr!!!!

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About ken

  • Eric Olsen

    very interesting and thought-provoking Ken, thanks! I never understand people who talk about running out of things to do or losing interest in life, or who think 120 years is too long. I can think of a million things I’d like to have time to do, learn, experience, examine, think my way through, etc, etc. I can’t imagine being bored with life.