Thursday, January 04, 2007

On approaching "that certain age"

We've now entered 2007, which means that at some point not that far away, I'll be crossing over the dividing line of my expected life span (since I plan to live to be 100!)

Perhaps that's why I'm noticing things these days, like how my clothes seem to have shrunk over the holidays, and how I seem to make this "grunting" sound when I stand up, and if I kneel down to tie up my shoe, I need both hands just to get back up again.

Yeah, I think I'm getting older. Of course, the white hair gave it away a long time ago anyway -- but at least there's a lot of it.

Apparently, I'm not the only one picking up on this ageing thing. Since we boomers (I'm at the lower end of that cycle) are now approaching our "sunset" years, we're going to have a significant effect on everything around us, just as happened during every other significant stage in our lives. The magic of demographics say it must be so.

But as getting older becomes a focus for me, I find myself wondering why we age so differently? Why do some of us go gracefully into our later years, while others begin to have all kinds of trouble? Why do some people seem to lose more of their mental abilities than others? And what makes some folks live so long, compared to their peers?

Today, I came across an interesting article in the New York Times that picks up on a few of these questions. It's called A Surprising Secret to a Long Life: Stay in School.

It's thesis is simple. The more education people have, the longer their expected life span. It's a controversial theory, but this lengthy article gives a fascinating look into a lot of the factors that affect old age and there appears to be a real link to the education factor.
The one social factor that researchers agree is consistently linked to longer lives in every country where it has been studied is education. It is more important than race; it obliterates any effects of income.

Year after year, in study after study, says Richard Hodes, director of the National Institute on Aging, education “keeps coming up.”

And, health economists say, those factors that are popularly believed to be crucial — money and health insurance, for example, pale in comparison.

I don't know whether that's a comfort for me or not. I did get a lot of education - or at least, I spent a lot of time at school. I sure hope that counts for something.

I'm not much for making predictions, but I'm pretty confident that we're going to be reading a lot more stories in this topic area in the months and years ahead.

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