I'm 48. My best friend S., who is currently staying with us, is 63. Another friend, who is 57, came for dinner last night. They were swapping tales of their elderly parents. S. mentioned that her 91 year old father now notices muscle weakness in his legs, is hard of hearing and legally blind. Nevertheless, he still manages to swim and lead an active life in his retirement village. He still does his exercises every day: press-ups, sit-ups - he has done all his life.
It's somehow assumed that we in the west can expect to live longer and longer lives. But how many of us actually have the physical self-discipline that older generations had? Personally, I'm not counting on living to a grand old, active age, not like my great aunt, who still grew her own vegetables at 95. I can't even manage to grow tomatoes in my middle age. My job is completely sedentary. I suspect that scarcity in the 1910s, 1920s, 1930s might have contributed to the increasing longevity of those currently aged over 80. That scarcity meant they were physically active and lean, in general, especially as children and young people. Those of us postwar western babies barely know what scarcity is. I wouldn't be surprised if longevity in the west begins to decline as obesity and chemical overload takes its health toll on the currently young generation.
Katharine Whitehorn, who is heading towards 80 herself, has some interesting thoughts on 'the new 60'.