Over the Hill

Who wants to live to be 120 years old? Not me

Special to The TribuneAugust 8, 2013 

Phil Dirkx

For a change I’m with the majority. Wednesday’s Tribune reported 56 percent of Americans don’t want to live to be 120 years old. Me neither. Of course, nobody actually offered us that choice. It was just a survey by the Pew Research Center.

Also, the surveyors said 51 percent of us think living to 120 would hurt our nation. That’s logical. Statisticians say a new American baby can now expect to live about 79 years. But if we start living to 120, the Medicare and Social Security systems will die before we do.

The present population of Earth is 7.2 billion. Statisticians say that by 2050 it’ll be 9.6 billion. I doubt they figured on us living to 120. We should die sooner to leave enough room and food for the new generations.

The article said scientists have already extended the life spans of mice, worms and flies. They should stop. Some of those longer-lived mice, worms and flies are bound to escape and multiply. I can’t even keep ants out of my house.

This article about delaying death until age 120 was on The Tribune’s front page. That’s no surprise. Death is a major part of the news media’s stock in trade. But we’re used to stories of death caused by violence, famines and epidemics, not stories of death possibly delayed by science.

You’ll also find death in newspapers on what I call the Lindsay Lohan page. That’s where you sometimes see celebrity obituaries. Often the dead celebrities lived so long I forgot what they were famous for, if I ever knew.

One example was Michael Ansara, who died at 91. He was the original Klingon on the “Star Trek” TV show. He died after a “long illness.” Another was NBC correspondent John Palmer, who died at 77 of pulmonary fibrosis.

And there was also “Renowned sex researcher Virginia Johnson,” who died at 88 after “suffering complications from various illnesses.” Notice the “long illness,” and “complications from various illnesses.” I’m afraid that prolonging my life would prolong my death.

My father died of congestive heart failure. My mother had a series of strokes over a period of years. She wasted away to a frail, tiny, bed-ridden woman who didn’t seem to remember me.

Many years ago a Shandon rancher died suddenly on the Paso Robles Trail Ride. Some people said that was the way to go. I agreed. But such deaths seem rare.

The Pew surveyors also said that the most preferred lifespan was 90 years. That’s OK with me. It’s far enough into the future to ignore. My father died when he was 83 and two months. I’ll be 83 next month, but so far I feel fine.

Phil Dirkx has lived in Paso Robles for more than five decades, and his column is published weekly. Reach him at 238-2372 or phild2008@sbcglobal.net.

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