My paternal grandmother fit the stereotypical “grandma” mold. She was plump, always wore shirt-waist dresses with lace-up sensible shoes and her hair back in a tight bun. But her sweet look belied a wicked sense of humor. When she was in her late 70s, she told my dad she was growing weary of being old. Dad tried to cheer her up by saying, “Oh, Mother, you have many good years ahead of you!” My grandmother paused, looked thoughtful and replied, “Dick, you know those pictures of shrunken heads in National Geographic?” Another long pause, “I’d prefer not to look like that.”
I was reminded of this by an article on Medicalnewstoday.com that reported a Pew survey showing most Americans don’t want to live to age 120 as futurists predict. When asked on the survey if they would use medical treatments that would extend their lives to 120 or more, 56 percent of those 18 and older said no. When asked about lifespan, 69 percent said they’d like to live to between 79 and 100 years. The median average of the answers was age 90, which the article states is 11 years more than the current average life expectancy of Americans.
Survey participants seemed to be accepting of the rapidly aging population, with almost 90 percent reporting either that having more older adults in the population was a good thing or did not make much difference to them. Attitudes about the future of science related to health and aging were mostly positive. 70 percent of the respondents believe most forms of cancer will be curable by 2050 and two-thirds see medical innovations that extend the lifespan to be a good result.
On a negative note, 41 percent of survey respondents said medical treatments today frequently produce as many problems as they fix. Only 24 percent reported having confidence that new medical treatments are as carefully tested as needed before being offered to patients.