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* 2006 Journalist of the Year for the State
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Paul Kusuda
Longer Life Spans; Staying Healthy
professional public school librarian, she continues to read a lot, often non-fiction, and occasionally suggests I read
something she finds of special interest.  This time, I decided to follow her suggestion because I had read his early novel The
Five People You Meet in Heaven.  I’m glad I did.  Albom did a fine job of making the reader think about the intrinsic meaning
of thoughts about the passing of time and what might happen if one deals with it as a personal commodity.  If anyone had
the ability to control time (moving it forward or backward) thinking good can result, possibly revising or correcting an
undesirable action in the present, havoc can well result.  Albom’s novel ended on a happy note concerning the lives of an old
man who wanted not to die (but to be in a suspended life situation until medical science would succeed in finding a solution
to an affliction that will mean his death) and a teenager who didn’t want to live any longer.

Life expectancy increased over the years as a byproduct of advances in medical and pharmacological knowledge and
practice, public health measures, improvements in living standards and diets, etc.  Some people tout heredity and having the
good fortune of having parents who lived more years than others.  At any rate, according to information in the November 2016
issue of Population Reference Bureau’s publication Today’s Research on Aging, “In 1900, life expectancy in the United
States was 47 years.  By 2014, U.S. life expectancy had increased to 79 years, and those who reached age 65 could expect
to live another 19 years.”

Some of us, especially those in the older-age group, have occasionally thought about the pluses and minuses of longevity.  
Physical, mental, and emotional well-being, i.e., quality of life, come to mind together with thoughts of losing parents and
other loved ones, former coworkers and supervisors who have moved away or died, good and not-so-good past
experiences, what we should or should not have done or said, etc.  Quality of life includes rich social contacts with family,
church or other organization members, friends, and neighbors, and interest in hobbies and sportsactivities.  So, it appears
there’s more to longevity than relevance to length of life.  Research delves into factors not conducive to extension of life.  Of
course, accidents and illness are factors as are social, behavioral, and other phenomena affecting longevity. Studies have
shown that up to half of premature deaths in the U.S. resulted from behavioral and others preventable causes.  Among them
were substance abuse, smoking, healthy diet,and other factors.

According to studies, physical limitations and health problems tend to increase as people age.  I was interested to learn that
among those who reached 100,decline began at much older ages than those who did not.  Onset of diseases having started
later means quality of life was better for more years.  A study showed that “…onset of diseases—heart disease, dementia,
and stroke—and of cognitive and functional decline are delayed among those in the oldest groups.  About 83 percent of
centenarians ages 100 to 104 were free of major age-related disease until at least age 80.  Among supercentenarians ages
110 and older, 92 percent were free of major disease until at least age 80, and 69 percent were disease-free until age 100
or older.”

Census Bureau projections indicate that those 85 and older will more than triple between 2015 and 2050, from 6.3 million to
19.0 million.  The challenge to families and health-care professionals is painfully obvious.  Further, for the U.S., there are
considerations as to impact on current fiscal assumptions relating to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.  Solutions will
not be easy to find, but somehow they must be formulated in some way to hurt the fewest number of people.  I’m selfishly
glad that others than myself will have to be deeply involved.
By Paul H. Kusuda

Many want to be able to enter the realm of old age, senior citizenship, or whateveranyone wants that age-
group cadre called. What is often overlooked in that desire is that old age is a worthwhile wish only if it
includes health and being content with living, that is, with a minimum of problems or infirmities.Quality of
life being of prime importance, one might wonder if just living is worth the effort and resources
occasionally required to maintain or restore life without sufficient thought to that concept.  Professional,
ethical, and moral issues are involved.  Answers are not easy to come by, but they’re usually dealt with
on an individualized basis, as they should be.  Each circumstance has facets not present in others.  So,
perhaps, longevity in itself may or may not be a desirable goal.

My wife suggested a book she had read recently:  the time keeper, a novel by Mitch Albom.  As a retired