Wednesday, November 6, 2013
May The Police Be Called To Quiet Down Your 100th Birthday
The thing is, if you somehow, miraculously, reach the age of 100, you have beaten incredible odds. Worldwide, there might be 300,000 people who have lived to be 100 - out of a population of 7 billion.
Currently. there are approximately 317 million people in the United States and of those teeming millions, there are fewer than 55,000 who are older than 100.
That is astounding.
100 years ago, the average life expectancy was about 48 years. That was when less than 5% of the population was born in a hospital and the flu, tuberculosis, and diarrhea were the leading causes of death.
Heck, one hundred years ago, 88% of Americans could not claim to be high school graduates.
Which means, despite the pessimists (and the quixotic), we are definitely living in the best of times.
Centenarians must just sit around in awe of how much better it is for everyone now than it was for them in the early part of the last century. These are people who have seen the world change in ways that are almost beyond comprehension.
Something as rudimentary as the right to vote was limited to less than half of the voting age population (in the U.S. that is - even less in other countries). Women did not gain universal suffrage in this country until 1920, and unbelievably enough, there are still countries on this planet, in the year of twenty freakin' 13, where women cannot vote.
A 100 year old person with a sharp memory can recollect a time when gathering information on a subject meant spending long hours in a school or library (or both), and a higher education was a precious commodity for the privileged.
A person who is a century old today remembers when the telephone was a luxury item, and calling someone up was a huge indulgence (and nobody ever had to ask "Where are you?" when they called someone - phones were anchored in place).
The thought of living to be 100 is both exciting and terrifying. The rate of technological and social progress being made is almost breathtaking - hell, just in the past ten years we've gone from "Can you hear me now?" to "Look at this video from a dash cam in Russia of a meteor streaking across the sky."
Heck, twenty years ago Internet access was a novelty, and an expensive one at that. If I am fortunate enough to live to be 100, will I look back at that time as if it was the stone age? Will I occasionally remove the neural interface device I use to connect with the 'net to revel in being unconnected? Will it be possible to be unconnected?
I certainly hope so. Maybe that will become a thing - disconnection parties where people go to get actual, interruption free face time with each other, and electronic devices are forbidden.
That might be too scary for some people though, having to actually interact with another person. Too...human.