Linda Marsa in Nautilus:
He scanned my medical history, and the answer was there in black and white: a body mass index of 24, blood pressure a shade lower than the normal range, total cholesterol below 120, and no chronic disorders or ailments to speak of. There was just one outlier in this picture of good health: I recently turned 67. Which is why, when I saw a new doctor for my annual checkup, he had a hard time believing I wasn’t taking an arsenal of drugs simply to remain upright. There is plenty of alarm about the unprecedented aging of humanity. Since 1950, the median age in developed countries has jumped from 28 to 40, and is expected to reach 44 by mid-century. The percentage of citizens age 65 and older is expanding accordingly, from less than 10 percent in 1950 in the United States, Western Europe, and Japan to a respective 20, 30, and 40 percent by 2050. The fear is that, as baby boomers like me march lockstep into “retirement age” (the first of us crested that hill in 2011), there will be fewer young workers to support us old folk, which will curb spending, strain the healthcare system, and drain Social Security and Medicare benefits.
Yet it’s hard to reconcile this chilling prediction with my own experience. Thanks to genetic luck and some sensible lifestyle habits—I walk two miles every day, quit smoking decades ago, and have never set foot inside a fast food joint—I’m in as good or better shape than ever. I hike and travel, and still have the energy to work 50- to 60-hour weeks. I have a supportive network of family and friends, and a thriving career doing what I love. No longer crippled by the toxic insecurities of my youth, I’m the happiest and most fulfilled I’ve been in my life. As far as I’m concerned, I’m not even close to being put out to pasture. Am I nuts? Although my doctor may regard me as some rare, exotic bird, the statistics tell a different tale. Every day, 10,000 Americans turn 65, and every day, more and more of them are just as fit as me. Society may still view able, competent, sound-of-mind seniors as happy curiosities. But the fact is we are quickly becoming a sizeable demographic.