Sunday, February 25, 2007

The problem with getting older...

Not only are we living longer, the rate of longevity increase is accelerating.

But these statistics do not relate to anything as mundane as prices. Rather, they are about the more gruesome topic of death. Specifically, Blake is predicting how long our children, and children's children, will live - and his conclusions are striking: over the past century, life expectancy in the western world has not only risen, but the rate of increase has accelerated. While someone in the 1840s lived, on average, to 40, today's generation can expect to hit 80, "and for our grandchildren, it could be 160," says Blake, stabbing a pale green corner of his fan chart. Until recently, such morbid number-crunching was of interest only to actuaries, the pensions industry, scientists and doctors. After all, death is not a topic that many of us want to discuss - except in the most abstract terms. And the pensions world was such a slow- moving, sleepy backwater that it rarely attracted the interest of high-flying bankers. [More]

While this may offer an investment opportunity for financial wizards, for most of us it presents a good news/bad news scenario. The probability we will outlive our plans and resources grows every day - and not is a good way for most.

If you have not been on the front line of caring for the very old, you may not fully appreciate how many times you will mutter, "I don't want it to be like this for me" even as you become more convinced that is your future.

I have tastelessly remarked from time to time that all the "good" deaths are being eliminated: the "grabber" in the corn crib, the undiscovered cancer that kills in months, infections that overwhelm, the relative quick decline of a lonely widow(er) from simple malnutrition by forgetting to eat, or simply wearing out by overwork.

Nope - what we have to look forward to is Alzheimer's, prostate cancer, dementia, strokes, and assorted lingering wasting deaths - all of which will be funded by somebody.

By this point, I have likely offended some who are still grieving a loved one. I deeply regret this, but it does not change my rather bleak assessment of what modern medicine is trying to accomplish. We are adding some pretty grim years onto many lives at great cost.

There will always be a #1 cause of death. Looking at the contenders:

Number of deaths for leading causes of death

bullet graphicHeart disease: 654,092

bullet graphicCancer: 550,270

bullet graphicStroke (cerebrovascular diseases): 150,147

bullet graphicChronic lower respiratory diseases: 123,884

bullet graphicAccidents (unintentional injuries): 108,694

bullet graphicDiabetes: 72,815

bullet graphicAlzheimer's disease: 65,829

bullet graphicInfluenza/Pneumonia: 61,472

bullet graphicNephritis, nephrotic syndrome, and nephrosis: 42,762

bullet graphicSepticemia: 33,464

I'm having trouble choosing my favorite.

1 comment:

rhoads said...

Well John, after turning 60 a month ago I feel much better now, thanks to your post. Gotta run; have to go to the bathroom again. Hmmm, where the heck is that bathroom?