This is an RSA clip on how to live to a 100.
This raises interesting questions that are not necessarily discussed in the RSA talk. I believe there are misconceptions concerning longevity and life expectancy that need to be considered. Compared to 500 years ago our life expectancy has greatly increased, this is undoubtedly true. Here I would accept all of life expectancy, average life expectancy and importantly quality of life having increased during that longer life. Once we decrease that figure of 500 years and consider the trend different questions could get asked, as yet I am not sure what those questions should be. I am searching for those questions.
Let’s consider that search for those questions, and what are those search parameters? They revolve around the third category quality of life although they include longevity issues. The RSA talk graph looked at life expectancy in western countries but what happens if we consider degenerative diseases? I note that this graph considered longest life – a mode, a strange statistical measure to choose when mean or median might be more appropriate. What do the statistics look like if we include cancer, heart disease, diabetes (II), others? What about Alzheimer’s? Statistically those people are living longer but what about the quality of their life?
There is an unwritten assumption in mainstream scientific discussion on longevity that these degenerative diseases are diseases that we have not found the cure for yet. Typical of this is the cancer industry. Huge amounts of money are put into research, much of it wasted in my view, to consider cancer as a disease in which we could find a causative agent (such as virus) and then find a healing solution. But what if we thought of cancer in another way? What if cancer is some measure of quality of lifestyle? What if cancer were some kind of natural response to the quality of our lifestyle, and here I include lack of stress, natural health, lack of chemical intake, quality food etc. Science in curing disease seeks to find chemical methods such as antibiotics to heal disease, and yet there are side effects that have great debilitating effects; typically with antibiotics how does it affect the liver? Particularly when we consider how mainstream science looks at healing cancer – chemotherapy etc., we produce an appalling quality of life, a quality of life that is so bad that cancer sufferers might prefer a shorter life without the mainstream solutions.
Cancer treatments also have indicators that are relevant to this discussion of longevity because there are alternative treatments that examine lifestyle, healthy eating and even cannabis as healing methodologies. Unfortunately statistical evidence in the mainstream as to the effectiveness of these alternative treatments does not abound because, especially in America, the cancer industry prevents research into such. Macrobiotics is sometimes considered a “cure” but macrobiotic eating is not a medicinal approach. You cannot give a person a few sprouts and measure whether they heal. It is a lifestyle approach that almost has an infinite number of factors that compound each other in the healing process. However the medical use of cannabis, and the effects of cannabinoids might well be more easily researched if the funding direction so choose – unfortunately mainstream science does not want cannabis to replace the cost-intensive treatments that are now generally accepted.
I have explained why the science in these areas is not clear but what ought to be clear I feel is that the scientific assumption that longevity will simply increase as scientific method develops has some doubts. When considering longevity at some point lifestyle factors starts to affect the increased longevity that scientific method is producing. I accept the premise that scientific method increases and will continue to increase life expectancy but this scientific method has to exist within a controlled environment. In other words lifestyle considerations are considered beyond the scope of the experimental procedure, and as such the experimental method would attempt to control and factor out the impact of lifestyle. What would be seen as increase in longevity brought about by scientific advance would have to be seen as separate from the downward impacts of lifestyle, personal stress, work-based stress, the poorer quality of our food intake etc.
There is something else that is coming with ageing that has only recently (last 50 years) been considered, and that revolves around the notion of retirement age. Let us consider this as a notion. My first instinct is to launch into a tirade on wage-slavery but let me try to consider this in a mainstream way of accepting work as a choice. In general it is considered that we are physically incapable of working beyond a certain age, that age is nominally in the west taken as 65 – 60 for teachers thankfully. Pensions are now a big problem. I don’t know whether they have miscalculated but the pension burden appears to be damaging to the economy. However personally I do not trust such viewpoints, I very much doubt that money is being lost I just suspect they want more profits from the investment and that they want to increase the amount of time we work.
Here again I cannot avoid the notion of wage-slavery, they now feel we can work longer before putting us out to pasture. But there is a legitimate side to this coin. I took early retirement but do volunteer teaching at 64 – 4 years past the retirement age for teachers. I can do this because I was not burned out between 54 and 60 because of the early retirement. On reflection my health was a serious issue prior to retirement, the only play I had was during the holidays, being at home after work was little more than sleep and tv watching.
The nature of the work is important to consider. As I got older the general strategy of management was to increasingly want more work for their money; there were increasing pressures to do after-school work etc. This was a productivity drive, and getting more productivity without paying any more irrespective of whether the teachers were already working hard. As I got older my work got better, my work management got better, my quality of teaching students improved, and I have no doubts at all my teaching got better. But the physical toll it took on me definitely worsened. I want to look into this improvement more. Compared with when I started – or my first five years, I knew so much more about what I was teaching. My personal professional discipline was so much better, in terms of the classroom I was so much more value for money. But at 50 there were certain lacks, typically I couldn’t play 5-a-side after school on a Friday before I went out on the town.
But there was a “hidden” side that changed. I never bought into the system so even when I started I never accepted the values of system education. That never changed but as I got older it felt like I was more a thorn in the side of the management. When younger that non-acceptance often showed itself as a simplistic confrontation that never worried management. But when I was older my confrontation also included an element of recognition as to their incompetence, my position was closer to them and so I was more of a threat. It became clear to me that young energy, even that energy that rejected, was much less of problem than the knowledge that experience brought especially of that experience had not been bought off.
It seems to me that this discussion about age is being fundamentally driven by a desire to increase retirement age. I think that is misguided and cruel. People nearing retirement age need to retire – they have been used up. But in so doing tremendous experience and the wisdom that comes with it is being lost. This wisdom is an asset that is not used. It is lost because older working people are expected to maintain the same workload as younger people and also use that wisdom as well. That is not practical. Here is a bad example. The generals sat at home use their wisdom and the troops are sent in and killed. In this example the wisdom of the generals is used. But because of tiredness the wisdom of the experienced is not used as much as it could be.
There needs to be an alteration in work-based practices, and that alteration needs to be profession-specific. In terms of teaching there is no doubt in my mind that at 54 I had much to offer and at 64 I still have much to offer but physically at 54 I found the job hard and now would find it almost impossible. I completely understand the actuarial figures for teachers, and have many recollections of hearing of teachers who have died soon after retiring. They were stressed out by the demands of the job and just pegged out. It always seemed to me that these people struggled through the day, and as a younger teacher I had so much more energy. But they had more wisdom. I am suggesting that in some way wisdom needs to be recognised and traded off against energy. How to do this I don’t know but what I do know is that if older teachers were not stressed so much in their job their experience could be used long after 60. So long as their bodies were respected and their job recognised as different. I think this change should happen at 50 – or even earlier, but I have no idea how this would work because of salary, promotion and ambition.
But I don’t suspect this discussion of age is driven by a consideration of wisdom, but simply can we make the work units last longer?
And here is a good point for those who have retired. If this process of recognising experience could be introduced how much better would retirees feel because they would still be contributing and not just being thrown out to pasture. Older people know they have the wisdom without the bodies, they just wish people could use their wisdom.
In the talk she started with an assumption “what happens when everyone lives to be a 100?” As discussed this has so many holes. I found the discussion interesting but frightening. The basis of the discussion was an attempt to examine how to change views of a working life from that of education to work to retirement into a more flexible view. However such discussions are very dangerous. Working people have the right to pensions a significant proportion of which is paid by the employer. These pension rights have been under threat already, and the flexible view that is being presented could well mean that employers do not contribute to pensions. This would be a terrific loss in which working people will be seen as providing all their money once they have stopped work – and that the employer will contribute little. The type of vaguaries being discussed by these two around fulfilment and the like without recognition that there needs to be pension contribution is horrendous and tantamount to opportunist exploitation of needed financial security. Typical – there will always be academics who will sell out workers’ rights for their own careers.
The lack of structure that they describe provides huge loopholes for the employer to escape their contributions. They can discuss all kinds of theory of changing life models and structures but when the employer is looking for an excuse to avoid pension contribution such discussions are carte blanche for exploitation. Frighteningly dangerous – false assumptions about longevity and based on those assumptions alteration of the negotiation model that provided security for ordinary people. Book deals will have royalties, workers don’t.