We're Obsessed with the Idea of a Long Life... But at What Cost?

BlogHer Original Post

The Atlantic recently reported on a study examining the extension of life expectancy in America by three years. Three more years of time with your significant other, watching your children grow, or traveling the world.  Or those three more years are spent battling health issues.  The Atlantic points out the crux of this discussion:

On the other hand, the idea of "living better" deserves serious examination. What do we mean when we say that someone is living well or living poorly? 

And moreover, is a greater life expectancy something we should be striving for if that extra time comes with health issues that drain savings accounts and come with a poor quality of life?  Is living at any cost the goal?

Life expectancy only refers to the age of death.  Americans are living on average to be 78.2 years old.  But what is the quality of those 78.2 years?  If one looks at how America ranks amongst a variety of diseases, we would see a bigger picture taking into account chronic diseases -- ones that impact daily life though leave the person capable of living for many years with that discomfort.  If you're living more years, but large chunks of those years are taken up with doctor's appointments or are spent bed-ridden, are you really living the life you want to experience?  As we age, we're gathering up health conditions.

The ideal would be to not only extend life but to halt the aging process, allowing our bodies to feel younger for longer.  To stave off chronic conditions such as heart disease or slow-moving cancers, which humans may be able to live with for a long time, but which greatly affect the quality of a person's life.  But without that piece, simply making longer lives doesn't make sense, unless you are willing to accept that time no matter what the emotional, physical, or financial cost.

Are you more concerned with the quality or the quantity of your life?  Obviously we'd all like to live a long life, but would you be willing to obtain longevity if it came with a host of health issues?

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Image: Alan Cleaver via Flickr

Melissa writes Stirrup Queens and Lost and Found. Her novel about blogging is Life from Scratch.

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