October 11, 2012

I Have a 50-50 Shot at Living Seven More Years. So What?

Writing yesterday's post made me wonder if there was a Bell Curve on life expectancy for an 83-year-old male, i.e., me. A Google search failed to produce a nice graphic, but it led me to a handy-dandy Life Expectancy Calculator from the Social Security Administration. 

The calculator asks only for your sex and birth date. Then, with one click, you get your estimated life expectancy... in my case, for American males aged 83 and four months. The answer: the average male my age can expect to live 6.7 more years, taking him to 90.1.

With that information, I could easily visualize the Bell Curve on life expectancy for someone my age.

The median peak is the average of 6.7 additional years (taking someone like me to age 90.1). The 2.15% on the far left represents those people who will die within the next year or so, while the 2.15% on the far right show those who will live to be 100 or more.

So Where Am I on this Curve?
My two progressive diseases -- Parkinson's and prostate cancer -- argue in favor of putting me on the left side of the slope. But I've also taken better-than-average care of my health over the years, so I'm inclined to think that these two counter-balancing factors place me close to the midpoint.

So What?
Good question. I don't brood over my life expectancy. But it reminds me to live life to the fullest today. Chances are -- if I stick around until age 90 or beyond -- I'll be in much worse shape physically and mentally than I am now. I should try to make the most out of the relatively good health I have now.

What does that mean? For me, it doesn't mean that I should immediately sign up for an around-the-world tour. I love traveling, and I've got some ideas for this coming year. But that's not my primary focus. 

Here are my most important considerations these days:
  • Leave a legacy of love and support for my family and close friends. 
  • Challenge myself to accept the inevitable decline in strength, vigor, agility, memory, and quickness. I don't want to embarrass myself -- or others -- by trying to act younger than I am.
  • Continue the interesting shift from "Attention Deficit Disorder go-go-go mode" that dominated most of my life to a more contemplative, meditative life.
  • Continue to exercise the gift of humor, especially the ability to laugh at myself.
  • Work on striking a balance between time for myself and time for others, between computer time and contemplative time.
  • Keep this blog going as a place to share my "experience, strength, and hope," and as a place where I can sort out my own often jumbled thoughts.
  • Try to follow the maxim of my dear departed friend Lili: get out and do something, preferably something new and different, every day. 
  • Watch out for self-pity and inflexibility. Be open to change.
  • Continue helping others, but also be more open to accepting help from others.
  • Maintain old friendships and look for opportunities to make new ones.

1 comment:

Kathleen said...

If more people shared your wisdom, the world would be a different and far better place.