As I start this conversation of purposely living to 120, I usually get a wide variety of reaction from people. Frankly, the one that took me by surprise the first time I heard, and, to some extent, still does is, “Why would you want to live to 120 even if you could?”
Now, I have to admit, before I started to get into such conversations, I just naively assumed that most people wanted to live as long as possible. After all, just look at the heroic efforts doctors, hospitals and patients put up to extend life just by few years, months and often even days.
When I was discussing this topic with my father-in-law recently, he remarked, “I will be happy to die at 90.” Then he quickly calculated and figured out that that was only 13 years away. So, he immediately added, “Wait a minute. That seems too soon. Scratch that thought. Let us make it 95.”
My mother-in-law on the other hand queried, “I’m wondering if anyone has interviewed those very old people to determine if they would have chosen to live to 120 or more, had there been a choice. Also curious to know why you would make that choice [of living to 120], since the possibility of your peers and loved ones not being with you seems to be very real. Or do you anticipate the “community” being a replacement for others?”
According to a detailed survey Pew Research Center conducted last year, comments of my in-laws are well represented in the mainstream of views across the US. As the following figures show, only 38% of people in the US would want to live to 120 and most Americans expect to live to between 85 to 90 years.
Only about 4% feel that ideal lifespan is between 100 and 120 and another 4% think it is over 120.
A majority of people think that living to 120 will be a bad thing for society.
A surprising result survey researchers noted is that most of these measures are fairly constant across various religions, gender, education or political party affiliations in America.
In my conversations, I have found that three reasons come up most often when people mull over if they personally want to live to 120:
- What would be the condition of their personal health? Will it be joyful living or a painful living?
- Will they have financial means to sustain themselves? Being broke is not much fun.
- Will their peers and loved ones be around? If not, will it be worth living?
As for myself personally, I feel that there are two major objectives of life: Growth and Contribution.
Thus my rationale for wanting to live to 120 is to simply maximize the time I have available to grow and contribute. Additionally, purposely living to 120, learning some things along the way, sharing with others as I learn, seem to fit in with my personal growth and contribution model of life.
In this sort of context, I see the three common objections cited above, as challenges to overcome as I pursue the goal of purposely living to 120. Moreover, not only I want to live to 120, but I wish to do it healthfully, purposefully and joyfully.
Looking at it another way, I feel, if it is okay to expect to get to 90 healthfully, purposefully and joyfully, why not to 120?
And, of course, as my mother-in-laws suspected, a key purpose for me to write this blog and engage in conversations with family, friends, loved ones is to motivate them and along the way find others who would want to share this journey together.
How do you feel about living to 120?
What do you think it would take to live to 120 healthfully, purposefully, and joyfully?
Please leave comments to this post. I and others following this blog would love to hear your perspective!
Brian Roberts said:
As I mentioned in a conversation, my father is turning 80 in July, and we’re having a party for him. We asked him who he’d like to invite, and one of his comments was “most of my friends are gone”…which echoes what you mentioned as a reason some don’t WANT to live to 100 and beyond.
I think it takes a special person who EMBRACES making new friends and interacting with their families who are a generation or two behind. It goes back to your thoughts about living longer is great if you are healthy, and as importantly…that you continue to grow and contribute!
I know that as an information junkie, I LOVE to talk to people much older to get their views and perspectives of how things were, and their thoughts on where things are going. My step-father…who died 10 years ago but would have been 95 now…was a walking/talking history book, and I loved that.
So, since I get energy from being with other people, I look forward to living as long as I possibly can…to grow myself, and to contribute in any way I can to everyone I meet for the next 50 years!
Don Zacherl said:
Why accept 120 as a limit? Why accept any limit?
There are two broad appeoaches to the problem; how to maximize vitality within historical constraints, and how to remove the constraints. The first approach is an efficiency play, and is valuable in eliminating risk variables, but it’s more important result may be identifying the constraints themselves after all, or nearly all, risks are contained. What is left? The constraints themselves, the ‘performance envelope’ of the infrastructure that contains the vitality itself.
Modify the infrastructure in all it’s manifestation, and you change the constraints. 120 is only a number; why not 200? Why not 500!
Both approaches may be valuable, and it may be necessary to build on one approach to develop the next, but the real payoff is changing the rules of the game; not being a very good player.