Longevity bane or boon?

Wish to live as long as possible is natural but achieving the same to enjoy life in Golden Period needs efforts!

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Vilas, my friend, wrote an e mail on our college group about human longevity and role of pharmaceutical companies in the same. This brings us to the good old discussion, longevity, is it bane or boon? In recent past, we all have seen products, treatments and methods to delay aging. Hoping to be around for longer time is a natural instinct! Both men and women, are using different products, trying to look young, dying their hair black and so on. There is plethora of creams, lotions, treatments, massages, health routines, health drinks available to us. The commercial organizations make such things available to us but to buy or not to buy is our choice! Such products were not available even 50 years back.

Vilas had made a comment that these pharmaceuticals companies keep people alive to make money. I replied to his mail saying that I don’t agree; in that e mail exchange, Sudhakar and another friend Pramod prodded me that this is a subject on which I should write a blog! Something kicked in from within and thoughts started flowing in my mind. What is longevity, what is old age? These definitions change as the years pass by, and/or we go to different countries. In Japan one of my colleagues’ father is 92 years old, 2 or 3 times a week he travels by Metro to get stuff for home! Old age? What is that? Last year we had taken Alaska cruise and there was one grand old American lady, all of 99 years of age, traveling alone on the cruise! You may say that these are exceptions but I don’t think they are! In a country like Japan population of 80 plus people is quite large and average age at death is between 85 & 90.

 Just a generation before ours, in India, our parents generation, old age started with crossing the age of fifty and at the time of retirement at 58 or 60 the Vanprasthashrama started. The currently available medicines, diagnostics tools and treatments were simply not available then. So if you had a heart attack, you simply died in most cases. Before the responsibilities of people ended, their health and wealth both were on the wane. Today’s Golden period never really dawned on that generation. There were two reasons, deterioration of health and wealth. Post British Raj, we were a poor country hence there never were savings to write home about. Even if ones health remained good, there was no money around to enjoy. But most important plus, for that generation, was there was always something to look forward to! Children, grandchildren were mostly around. Families always had something going. But for our generation with nuclear families, children migrating, we have to create our own things to look forward to! 

 In our generation, in general health has improved both bodily and financially. Slowly, in front of our eyes, we have seen that in today’s age 50 is like 40 of olden days and so on. Today’s 70 is like 60 of last generation. The overall improvement in situation is changing the definition of old age. Discussion on death was taboo in older generation. Now people at least in my group talk openly about health and death. With this change in thinking people are trying to take things in hand and are discussing about “medical will”! For example people are discussing openly, that in case of defined major health issues, they would not like to be put on ventilator or would not like to undergo major surgery. By taking such parameters under control people really want to enjoy their golden period and say quits when it is not worth it!

 There are ways to keep reasonably healthy. The most important is discipline. Whatever we do, only discipline is going to help. Some might feel that your behavior is regimental but to achieve your goal you need to be very rigid about discipline. I will tell you my story; I was detected with severe diabetes, HB1C value of 11.5, five years back! I love sweets and this change had occurred between two yearly tests. What I did and still follow is discipline, discipline and discipline! I stopped eating sweets from the next day, I exercise regularly anyway. Started medication and switched to low carb stuff. In the third year my HB1C was found to be 6.0! In between I went through cancer treatment for about three months! My doctor was very confident that I will bring things under control because he was aware of my discipline. Why I shared my story with you is because we are probably the first generation in India, that may be able to enjoy the golden period of life! Add to discipline, positive thinking; that is one more thing that will keep you healthy.

 Is longevity bane? No I don’t think so! There are many different ways of keeping healthier and fitter at my age (I am 68). Healthiness is equally important for both body and mind. For body, exercise and yoga are the key but for mind there are many different things. You can learn something new, things that you always wanted to learn but never got time. A friend of mine today told me that post retirement he has joined a music school to learn to play Piano! Great going. Maybe you wanted to try your hand at photography, travel, painting or reading. Do it! Doing things you love to do, is my definition of Golden Period! Golden Period definition changes with person to person. Somebody may want to join bhajan singing group, some may like discussion group on modern technology. Thirty years back my mother was in such a group but it was very rare in those days. That group had retired general managers, high court judges, house wives, teachers and what have you. They would invite people to give 15 to 30 minute talks on subject ranging from puarans, health care, or to get to know about latest aero planes. Their only requirement was that the speaker should explain in such a way that they could understand the subject. Groups formed 30 years back were the beginning of many such groups mushrooming now in the form of Alumni groups, Office colleagues groups and so on.  

 Staying connected with family and friends is another great way of remaining healthy. After taking care to remain healthy, things can go wrong but this should not happen for want of trying. Another secret of remaining healthy is to keep updated with new things like gadgets, technologies and happenings all around! So much information is available easily on the net these days, it is crime to not know things. My grandmother died at the age of 85; was she keen on what is happening in the world! Whenever I went to her house she would ask me information on different things in the world. She died in 1985 but she used to read the newspapers really in details. My brother in law is 81 years old (he was professor of commerce) and is having many health issues. A couple of weeks back when we traveled only to meet him, we found that though the flesh was not willing, his intellect was as sharp as ever. Currently he is mentoring one of his students on a project for making solar drier which can be used by plethora of people! He wanted my advice and thoughts on marketing the product! Last week I had a discussion on WhatsApp technicalities with my Grand-nephew! Another way of keeping young!  

 Vilas mentioned in his mail a figure of 75 years of age, beyond which he felt it may not be very pleasant to be around. Yes possible, on current data available. But I am sure this data will change a lot in next 25 years and maybe 80/85 would be that age! Jury is still out on definitions of Golden Period, threshold age. But I am quite sure that this will be a moving target all the time! And finally, YES! The old age is a boon!

So long dear friends, Al Vida!

Al Vida is a Hindi word meaning Goodbye! This year has been a bit rapid in the wrong sense! I lost three dear friends of mine to the almighty till today, 11th April 2017. I am not writing an obituary but I am writing random thoughts that come to mind when such deaths take place. I am now 67 and it’s not a big deal really to face that your friends or family are dying. I know the realities of life and know very well that one has to go at some stage. My first such experience was when I was in final year of school and I had lost a friend to destiny. I have written a blog on this event

https://panvalkarpramod.wordpress.com/2011/03/23/he-is-gone/. That time it was a big shock!

In my grandparent’s time, he died at the age on 89, reaching that age was a miracle! Medical science and other allied sciences were not yet really developed and reaching the age of 50 was a great feat. Probably this threshold has already gone up to 55, then slowly to 60. My father and father in law both died at the age of 63. Celebrating 60th birthday was a great event then. People were considered to be at their prime around age of 40/45. Things have really changed now; almost 10 % of my batch mates from engineering college continue to work and are in reasonable health. Another maybe 50% are in good health though they have retired. People go for walks, treks, climb hills daily or hit the gym.

Now people are considered to be in prime around the age of 55/60 and I have known a few who have started new ventures after crossing 60. Definitions of old age are changing rapidly in India, the age bar for doing new things, new achievements has gone up! Besides improvement in medical sciences what has helped to raise the bar? New technology has brought people together. The isolation that older people had to suffer is now almost becoming history because we are in touch many people and many of the contemporaries are still around. This has definitely added to improved longevity.

I only feel sad that two of my friends who died, passed away almost instantaneously. Third friend was unwell for a few months. I don’t know the details about their health status for the period before they died. My other friend Suresh who was an Air Force pilot, flying MIG 27, had once told me. “Pramod, planes are as good as the way they are maintained. Except for one system, all hydraulics can be checked on the ground; only one system gets checked during flying. Similarly there is no sudden heart failure; there are signals which are ignored or sometimes due to diabetes the person does not feel the pain.” Had these two friends been a little more proactive in getting themselves checked who knows….

In this world time is the same for everybody. One minute for me is the same one minute to everybody. How we use this one minute is what matters. If we are day dreaming, thinking of future for ten minutes, we lose ten minutes from the current time which we could have spent better. Similarly if we had used those ten minutes to remember what we had done in the past, the net result would have been the same. It is the current time that is THE time!

Out of the three friends that I lost one of them was current time person. He would enjoy life to the fullest, whatever he was doing. He passed early morning. He had just come back from a party a couple of hours before he died. He had the real zest to enjoy the life. His son had shared the following on Facebook, sometime back. It is a perfect fit to my dear friend’s style!

The Dalai Lama, when asked what surprised him most about humanity:

“Man. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. Then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present. The result being that he neither lives in present nor the future. He lives as if he is never going to die, and then he dies never really lived.”

My friend really lived life and it is not easy to be so zestful all through your life. Thank you dear for showing us the path how to live and in the how to go!  Goodbye, Al Vida, My angels!