Last week I read that life expectancy in the United States
has now reached 78 years of age. As reported by Associated Press, a baby born
in 2007 can expect to live to the age of 78. The same report noted that heart
disease and cancer together were the cause of nearly half of U.S. fatalities,
and that Alzheimer's disease has surpassed diabetes to become the sixth leading
cause of death. Regardless of how long we can expect to live, everyone
has a date at which time life, as we know it, will come to an end. Whether by natural
or unnatural causes, our life on earth will have a conclusion.
Wikipedia defines “life expectancy” as the average number of years of life remaining
at a given age. Certainly a life expectancy of 78 years is better than the
previous high of 75.5 years. But what if we consider ‘life expectancy’ from a slightly
different perspective? The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary defines “expectancy”
as the act or state of anticipating or looking forward. What would be the
implications for us if we thought of our life expectancy as being about what we
might anticipate or look forward to as we live the precious moments of our
lives, rather than looking at the number of years we might have left?
I recall discussions with my father about what he looked forward to when he
retired. He anticipated a time of rest, a time when he could pursue his
hobbies and favorites sports. He also talked about spending time
travelling with my mother. As with many working class families, life
occurred as a series of work weeks, weekends for rest, helping children with homework, and the almost never-ending chores associated
with a family of eight. When vacation times did occur, the varying
schedules of growing children left very little time for Mom and Dad to spend
together. My father retired at 60 years of age, but by then, both my father and
mother had become, well, 'home-bodies'. They had spent so much time at
home that the very thought of travelling made them tired. In fact, they really
never learned how to travel, so for them, vacationing occurred for them as more
Don't get me wrong. They enjoyed the rest that came with retirement, but with
their increasing age came infirmities. Both no longer had the health they
enjoyed when they were younger. My father passed away at the age of 74 and my
mother joined him some five years later.
While what occurred for my parents is indeed 'what is', a small part of me wishes
that my parents had created possibilities for their individual lives throughout
each year, rather than have focused so much on their retirement years. It
occurs to me that the future does not occur somewhere in distant months or
years. The future occurs in each new moment and therefore possibility
also exists in each new moment. What possibilities might each of us anticipate,
create or look forward to as we live each moment of our lives?
At the Eldering Institute, we are committed to a rich experience of aging for everyone. Imagine living your life as a possibility. A life in which you have the ability to choose how your future occurs for you. Our Eldering Manifesto provides just such a vision for growing older. Please watch the video and then read the manifesto. If you share our vision, declare your commitment to a life of possibility by signing the manifesto. As in all of life, the choice is yours!