Wednesday, February 17, 2010

How Long Do You Want to Live?

About a month ago I had dinner with a friend at a fairly posh suburban restaurant to celebrate her birthday. The restaurant had recently opened a more affordable “bistro” which is where we dined. During the course of the meal the clientele shifted from business diners to local couples. I couldn’t help but observe how well dressed and chic they all looked, especially the tall, elegant woman in her haute couture skirt.

Not only did the women look stylish, but the men were also dressed well and perfectly quaffed. One thing I noticed about these couples were how smooth and silky their skin was – I thought this interesting since their ages seemed to run from early-mid 40’s to late-50’s early 60’s.

Later when we were in Miami, we spotted many women with obvious breast augmentations, as well as many men and women who had some facial work. Then the news hit the stands about a young Hollywood wannabe starlet who had a series of surgeries done to perfect what was already a fine looking body.

Then just the other day, I caught a radio interview with Greg Crister, author of “Eternity Soup: Inside the Quest to End Aging.” The current theory is that aging is a disease to be cured and that aging is, unnatural. Hormone therapy is one of the “potential” cures being touted by the anti-aging movement (although this has not been proven to be effective, and is very costly).

He also discussed another theory, that eating fewer calories will result in a longer life. This is based on research conducted with lab mice and studies of rock fish (where some are suspected to be 200 years old). Folks who follow this thinking eat between 30-40% less calories than you would normally consume at a meal. It has been shown that by eating less, you accumulate less plaque in your arteries. Many anti-aging seekers also take statins regularly, which apparently have the same benefits. One result of eating fewer calories is a decreased libido, but those in this group think it is a small price to pay for a longer life.

Hip and knee replacements are common surgeries these days. Recently a man in Spain who was cured of cancer had his trachea replaced by a non-cellular tube that was infused with his own stem cells. The stem cells fused with the replacement part and the individual was able to recover without the use of anti-immune drugs. While the current and most acceptable theory is that longevity is driven by genes, there is a lot of research being directed at curbing the aging process, and much will be done in the future through genomics.

I am one of those that has snickered and looked askance at people who have had facial work done. Quite hypocritical for a person who had a nose job (when I was 28 - desperately needed – even my mother said she had always hoped some day I would have it done!). I’ve always held the belief that we should age gracefully… but then what does that mean? I would give anything to have someone grow me some new genes to eliminate my cancer. And even as I struggle with chemo in an effort to extend my life, I still look in the mirror and see my mother’s jowls looking back at me – and I think maybe…..

I believe in improving one’s quality of life, but what means quality to me may be very different for someone else. One person’s quality may depend on being wrinkle free, while another’s may be being able to walk without pain.

It is very scary to think that 20 years from now we could have a huge population of “older” adults. What would our society be like, having millions of centenarians walking (or being wheeled) around – with faces that look like Joan Rivers? Where would all these people be housed and how would they be taken care of, needless to ask what would it do to our healthcare system?

So, how old is old, and how long do we (you) really want to live, and what does that life look like? I’ll keep focusing on stem cell research and hope it progresses before it’s too late for me. If I make it, maybe I’ll consider the facelift, lipo-suction, thigh lift and tummy tuck -and when I do die, I’ll make sure the casket is open and I am lying in it – naked.

In the meantime, I’ll try to continue to live my life gracefully, making sure each day is a good one, because eventually, we’ll all end up in the same place.


Lisa Ruff said...

I've never been one for plastic surgery. I figure at the end I'm going to look just as old as I am. My face and body will be full of the scars, flaws and blemishes that made up a happy--dare I say adventurous--life. Screw anyone who calls me ugly.

(And if you're lying naked in your casket, I'm taking pictures. Just sayin', lol)

Thierry said...

No plastic surgery can hide age. Hands always give it away.

Dana said...

I believe it has a lot to do with self image/confidence as well, I mean really, is it about how young you "look" or about how young you "feel," and WHO you really are inside?" beautiful blog Mary xoxo

Anonymous said...

Naked in the coffin -- what a book title! I'm still chuckling.