Nicolette Kavouras, Author at South Sound YMCA

By: Brad Hankins

As I write this—at near 70 years of age—a 60-year-old man can expect to live to age 81. A 60-year-old female to 84.  That’s according to the Social Security Administration, who, I think we can be assured, keeps a close eye on these things. In contrast, the University of Washington, ever the optimists, predict we may see possible life spans of 130 years within this century.

This increase in lifespan will be driven by continuing improvements in medical diagnostics, genetic research, and pharmaceutical discoveries. However, considering the time it currently takes to see a doctor, you may be 130 before you can explore these possibilities.

A headline caught my eye last week. As older Americans, we can expect just one healthy birthday after age 65, according to The World Health Organization. On the other hand, the healthy-birthday-loving people at the Centers for Disease Control tell that same 65-year-old they can expect nearly 2 more decades of good health.

What are those of us in our 60’s, 70’s, and beyond to think of this academic and statistical conflict? The mixed messages can feel overwhelming. Should lifespan be studied? By all means. Should predictions of how long we live put limits on how we live our life? Not in the least. Regardless of age, we can live inspired lives, on our own terms.

In my own life journey, I have found several thinkers who sum this up well. Psychoanalyst Erik Erikson pits integrity against despair as two opposite poles tugging at us in later life.  Similarly, author Maria Popova believes most of us dwell in a land between cynicism and hope. Both ideas describe a wonderful space to explore life, especially when we now have the time, wisdom, and patience to do so.

As a nurse and a personal trainer at our YMCA, I work primarily with older individuals. When we train together, I find we share similar concerns and hopes about aging well. Those interactions with members inspired this column.

Each month, we will discuss different aspects of longevity. In June, we will explore how exercise not only increases life span, but more importantly, affects our quality of life. I would enjoy hearing your questions, thoughts, and experiences. Please feel free to write me at hankinsb@ssymca.net.

Brad Hankins RN, CPT