This is the final installment in my joyous holiday series about death. I hope you’ve been enjoying it so far.
The New York Times Magazine of November 22 published the results of a poll in which it asked readers “If you could be guaranteed to live 75 healthy years and not a day more, would you take that deal?”
Fifty-three percent responded with a resounding “NO!” while only 22% were ready to sign up. Twenty five percent were either not sure or waiting for a better offer.
I don’t know about you, but I found these answers shocking. I mean, the average life span in America is a bit over 78, so, in theory, you’re only giving up three or four years in exchange for some pretty significant guarantees. Of course, the results of the poll may have been skewed by the fact that the median age of a New York Times Magazine reader is 55, and I guess I can understand the thinking of a 73-year-old being asked that question. Hell, many of the respondents, had they said yes, would have instantly keeled over.
But how could a younger person not take that deal? Look, chances are, even if you live to 85 or 90, you’re not going to do all that much after 75 anyway. You’ll just hang around all day until 4:30 and then go to dinner (driving only on local roads). And, yes, I know: this is where readers will recall everything they’ve ever seen about 98-year-old-marathoners or point out that Grandma Moses didn’t start painting until she was 75. But for every person like that there are probably 100 walking around senior living developments in pastel-colored jogging suits as if they are the targets of a horrifying Easter egg hunt.
And, as I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, there are tremendous advantages in planning to die at a specific age. For one thing, you can spend your money instead of hoarding it in case you live to be 110. And, with the Times Magazine deal, you could spend your life doing all kinds of death-defying things because, after all, you’re guaranteed to live to 75! You could be a super-soldier, fearlessly absorbing anything the enemy could dish out and coming back for more. You could play real-life frogger every time you crossed the street! You could try that poisonous puffer fish sushi!
I imagine some respondents may have been creeped out by the idea of knowing exactly when they were going to die. But, really, what’s so bad about that? You could have a fantastic last meal for one thing. Isn’t that better than wolfing a Hot Pocket and then falling down a flight of stairs? And you’d have your whole life to think up some profound last words instead of something like, “Honey, hand me the remote. Argghhhh!”
You’d also be doing a tremendous favor for the rest of us, because society wouldn’t be burdened caring for you in your old age. Without you hanging around, Social Security and Medicare could be solvent, and I wouldn’t have to dodge your motorized wheelchair on crowded sidewalks.
This seems like a good time to answer the question I posed on behalf of my readers in my previous post: Why am I such a terrible person?
That question came up because my last post was about taking care of my mother in Florida or, more accurately, arranging for her to be taken care of. While I was talking about the various options in that regard, I thought readers might be wondering why I wasn’t considering chipping in for her care, or bringing her into my house to live.
I’ll respond to the second part first.
There are a number of reasons why mom living with us is a non-starter:
- We live in Connecticut. Mom doesn’t like cold weather. She prefers warm weather with 300% humidity.
- For a ranch, our house has a lot of steps, and would be non-negotiable with a wheelchair or walker. For that same reason, we’ll probably have to move soon.
- We wouldn’t be able to provide the 24-hour care she needs because there are occasions
on which we all leave the house at the same time. Although maybe we could train our puppy Riley to care for her when we’re gone.
- We really, really, really don’t want mom living with us.
To that last point–this may sound cold, but having my mother live with us would have a severe negative impact on our lifestyle, such as making it non-existent. It would also be bad for her, because, if she permanently took up residence, there would be a very good chance she would outlive us. And then where would she be?
As far as money goes, look, we put our daughter through college. We live well but not extravagantly. And we have to pay for our own Long Term Care insurance, which, due to a slight miscalculation by Genworth when it issued the policy, just had a 60% increase in premiums, so that it now costs about $5000 a year. For each of us.
The bottom line is that I can’t contribute financially to my mother’s care and have enough money so that my wife and I can live reasonably well until we become old and decrepit.
I, personally, have no inclination to live beyond that point. Which brings me to the last thing I want to say about death: we should make it easier for some people to welcome it.
Folks that have been stashed in long-term care facilities–the rolling dead–are alive to no one’s benefit (including their own) except the establishments that house them, which tend to turn tidy profits. If they are not even aware, then what’s the point? Or, if they are aware and recognize their situation for what it is, and would prefer to check out, then why stop them?
Seriously…give me one good reason.
I’m not saying we should kill our old people. I’m just saying we should make an exit strategy more easily available for those who want it. Some states already allow assisted suicide in the case of terminal illness. Well, if you’re in your late eighties, you’re terminal almost by definition. Your ability to do stuff is rapidly declining, and everything hurts when you move, and your bones are breaking every other week, and someone in your circle of friends dies in the alternate weeks so that you can’t even get a mah jongg game together anymore, and you’d really like to end it all.
So why can’t we just allow you to?
As for me, well, I’m going to be 62 in February, but if The New York Times Magazine had asked me their question, I would have said yes. I figure limiting myself to only 13 more years is a small price to pay for never needing another colonoscopy.
See you soon.