Thursday, March 16, 2006

longer lives

I just heard a radio news clip this morning about lengthening life expectancy. The report said that the first person to live to be 1000 years old will soon be born. One thousand years?! The report said that through stem cell research and other of those types of genetic altering stuff it would soon be possible.

I don't know if that's something to look forward to or not. I think of my grandmother. She will be 84 in a couple of months. She's been in a nursing home for about two and a half years now. She has Alzheimer's and is not that forgetful, but she can get mean. Mean in the way that she almost got kicked out of the nursing home for hitting other patients there. She had a falling spell last fall so she went in for a full physical, bone density test, a bunch of things. Physically she is in great condition. Her bones are that of a woman in her 50's. She has a long life ahead of her.

I say all that because she has a lot of life ahead of her, but what kind of life is that? She is not the same woman I knew and loved as a child. By her physical condition, she could easily live a lot longer in that nursing home. And in her mental condition, what would that mean if she were to live till she was 1000? What would it mean if I were to live till I was 1000?

I don't think that would mean I would be in a nursing home at 75. But how long can we live each season of our lives. I guess it wouldn't be so bad to not start having a family until your 40's if you knew you had a few more hundred years, but how would that work for a woman whose eggs are forming while she is still in utero? The reason we see more birth defects with older mamas is that their eggs are just plain old. So if we raise our family by the time we are 60 or 70, we could still see generations of grandchildren and their grandchildren. That part is very appealing to me.

But what would our quality of life be after 300 or 400 years? Would we still have the same get up and go? Would we even want to get up and go? What do we with ourselves for the next 100 years? I look at my grandmother. She is growing weary of the life she now has. A decade in that state will be the longest one of her life. What if it were 3 or 4 decades that she was spending there?

Is that really worth it? Maybe it would be good to have a productive 70 or 80 years, a few final ones to reflect and then be able to go to our eternal rest. That sounds a little morbid, but I'm not sure I would want to lengthen my life to an extreme knowing that each season (other than childhood) would be lengthened as well.

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