Created by Cardiologists
Trusted by Doctors

There are no items in your bag

Product added to shopping cart

Having the Time of Your Life!

having the time of your life

We are so lucky! There has never been a better time and place to be alive than America in 2016. The standard of living has been increasing for centuries, entertainment options are exploding, and you can safely travel around the world and be treated like royalty.

Unrivaled advantages of modern life include: quality and quantity of food, personal safety, access to information, freedom from persecution for your personal beliefs, effective treatment options for nearly all diseases, unprecedented longevity, and an ability to connect to others - almost anyone, anywhere, anytime.
But let’s be honest, we are getting older. Life expectancy has almost doubled in the past century. Astonishingly, the fastest growing age group in America is the over-80 cohort. Today, in the U.S. the average 65-year-old woman can expect to live to age 89; the average 65-year-old man can expect to live to age 87!

Americans are clearly living longer, in many cases a lot longer than any of us imagined. In essence, you have been handed a priceless gift - an extra 30 years of life. So here are a couple of burning questions to think about: 1) What in the world are you going do with all that extra time on your hands, and 2) How are you going to stay mentally sharp, physically strong and still be enthused about waking up some morning in January 2045?

In Jane Pauley’s book, Your Life Calling: Reimagining the Rest of Your Life, she writes, “Frankly, we are all making this up as we go along. But how reassuring to know we’re all in this together."

Cross My Heart and Hope to Die

Ezekiel Emanuel’s article, “Why I Hope to Die at 75” appeared in Atlantic Monthly in September 2014. In it he argues that society, families, and all of us will be better off if nature takes its course swiftly and promptly when a person’s age hits the three-quarters of a century mark.

Emanuel explains: “Seventy-five. That’s how long I want to live. I am sure of my position. Doubtless, death is a loss. It deprives us of experiences and milestones, of time spent with our spouse and children. But here is a simple truth that many of us seem to resist: living too long is also a loss. It renders many of us, if not disabled, then faltering and declining, a state that may not be worse than death, but is nonetheless deprived. It robs us of our creativity and ability to contribute to work, society, the world. It transforms how people experience us, relate to us, and, most important, remember us. We are no longer remembered as vibrant and engaged, but as feeble, ineffectual, even pathetic.”

Emanuel goes on with his grim perspective, “Over the past 50 years, health care hasn’t slowed the aging process so much as it has slowed the dying process. Americans may live longer than their parents, but they are likely to be more incapacitated. Does that sound very desirable? Living parents make it hard for grown children to become the patriarch or matriarch. Children need to have enough time for their own lives, out of their parents’ shadows.”

Precious Golden Years

Emanuel, with his heartless and pessimistic outlook on aging, reminds me of Mr. Grinch. Heck, using his cold-blooded logic he might also argue we should destroy our canine best friends when they reach age 10 ½, which is 75 in dog years. People over age 75 make treasured contributions to the world, even if their vigor and strength may not be as robust as they once were. My father, Judge James O’Keefe, was the beloved patriarch of our family. When my parents arrived for a visit, he would come bursting through the front doors bellowing, “We’re here!” My children would run giggling to their “Grandpa Judge” and there were and hugs and kisses all around. After being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, my dad lived for only 11 weeks of pain-racked misery.

Mr. Emanuel, don’t try to tell me the world is better off because my father departed this realm quickly about age 75. He was an unwavering source of wisdom and humor, loyalty and love. His passing at age 73 left a gaping hole at the center of our family. The intense, unconditional love parents feel for their children is unique. And no matter how old you are, losing your mother or father is emotionally devastating. Like being orphaned, it makes you feel more vulnerable and exposed to life’s dangers and uncertainties.

Every day I’m surrounded by remarkable people over age 75 who inspire and teach me. My mother, Leatrice, who just celebrated her 85th birthday will be the first to admit, “getting older is not for sissies.” Even so, she remains bright and full of vitality and is a wellspring of kindness and affection for her six children and 14 grandchildren, and her many friends and neighbors. She spends her time on countless small deeds, done with great love. Leatrice is practical, frugal, and resilient; the hallmark traits of her generation, who survived the Great Depression and WW II. Those are qualities we need more of, not less of in the 21st century.

My grandmother Dorothy became a widow at age 73. A year later when I started college at the University of North Dakota (UND), she offered me free room and board at her home in Grand Forks. For about four years, two as an undergrad and two more as a medical student, I lived with her in her house on Lewis Boulevard about a mile from the college. Dorothy’s spunky, cheerful attitude and her forward-looking optimism shaped my life profoundly. Following my time with her, another nine of her grandchildren took turns living with her and benefitting from her insight and love as they attended UND - all while she was between ages 75 and 90.

Life’s Curves

The second half of your life doesn’t have to be a long slide into disability and despair. In the 21st century, age 50 can be a fresh awakening to the beauty, opportunity and enjoyment in life. Fifty-somethings today are much more active and vital than people 50 and older were even a decade ago. Although our parents and grandparents viewed age 50 as a time to start winding things down, today age 50 is about the time you should feel your second wind kicking in.

Now, individuals over age 55 launch more new startup companies than any other age group. Baby boomers are a huge demographic bulge headed toward retirement age. Still, I think my generation should get out of the mindset of retiring and instead plan on transitioning to another active pursuit. If you are going to be living into your 80s or 90s, you should be working at least into your 70s. My plan is to retire. . .never.

In Good Health,

James O'Keefe, MD

Picture Credit: Creative Commons Pixabay