Saturday, 30 April 2011

Britain is a country where more and more old men will live to be 100, whether they want to or not

According to figures quoted in a new book by the 82 year old biologist, Lewis Wolpert :

* in 1800 the average life span of a Londoner was only 30 years, rising to 42 by
1900 and then during the next 100 years it almost doubled to around 80.

* we are getting older and older, faster and faster.

* during the 20th century, life expectancy grew by more than it had during the previous 5,000 years of Man’s existence.

The 'Guardian' journalist, Alexander Chancellor reflected on this and wrote :

Live to 100? No thanks - the idea's enough to turn me into a wrinkly rebel.

'Even though I am 71, I am in reasonably good health. But already I pant a little after climbing the stairs, I have to sit down to put on my socks, and I need a little rest in the afternoon.
What on Earth would I be like if I lived to 100? I shudder to think, and luckily it is most unlikely that I will reach that age.'

He went on to make the following points, that old men :

* throughout history, have striven to fight off death and find the secret of eternal youth.

* have tried everything to prolong their lives, from eating monkey glands to having injections of minced dog testicles, as the neurologist Charles Edouard Brown-Sequard did in the 19th century, hoping for rejuvenation at the age of 70.

* found that none of these treatments worked but finally such straightforward developments such as good sanitation, medical progress and healthier diets have gone some way to fulfilling their dreams.

Alexander also made the following points, that :

* irrespective of how many miracles modern medicine can produce, the chances are that you will have run out of energy long before your 100th birthday and have become a misery to yourself and a burden to others.

* cases of people staying well and sprightly into great old age are rare and most of us succumb to infirmity and dependence on others long before that.

* excitement at the prospect of living to 100 is somewhat dampened by the thought that it may involve a decade or more of incontinence, blindness, deafness, dementia or any of the other nasty ailments that old age tends to inflict.

* in his book Lewis Wolpert digs up a 2,500-year-old quotation from an Egyptian official called Ptahhotep, who said:

‘How hard and painful are the last days of an aged man. He grows weaker every day; his eyes become dim, his ears deaf, his strength fades; his heart knows peace no longer; his mouth falls silent. The power of his mind lessens, and today he cannot remember what yesterday is like.’

The last line from Jaques famous 'all the world's a stage' speech in Shakespeare's 'As You Like It' in 1600 reflected the same sentiments :

All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first the infant
.... the whining school-boy... the lover,
a soldier....the justice....
The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slipper'd pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side,
His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank; and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

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