I recently read an article that was focused on amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and how cases of this degenerative motor-neuron disease are expected to increase as the world population ages.
I have news for the author: As people live longer, I believe we’re going to see an up-tick in almost every type of rare disease, rare disorder, and rare condition. We’re also going to see a groundswell of diseases that are already plaguing society, like diabetes.
Is it that we’re living too long? I don’t say that lightly because my family generally has a short “shelf-life.” Very few of us make it past our late 60s or early 70s; my sister was only 54 when she died from congestive heart failure. I damn sure wished she had been among those who might be living too long.
So, don’t think me cruel for bringing up the point that unless you’re an outlier, like my friend Anna, who is 104 and zips around my in-laws assisted living facility with her walker, and still has every marble God ever gave her, aging brings an entire host of usually unanticipated problems. Apart from diseases like dementia and cancer, the number of people who are going to be “elder orphans,” those who don’t have a spouse, children, or any kind of kin to help them through the inevitable hoops aging forces on us, is going to increase exponentially.
As an example, my husband and I take care of his parent’s finances, take them to the doctor, and spend a lot of quality time with them. They are in their mid-90s and I shudder to think of them left to their own devices. They are the embodiment of what it like to NOT be elder orphans.
We, as a society, better start making changes for how we are going to care for ourselves, and others, as we age. I read about a service one police department in the mid-west offers at no cost: they have a call system in place where every day the people enrolled in the program receive a call. It’s a recorded message. If the call isn’t picked up, an officer is dispatched to the home for a wellness check. This sounds pretty reasonable to me.
There are many other issues, like transportation, aging in place, loneliness, shopping for groceries, overseeing finances, estate planning when there’s nobody in line to inherit the loot… the list goes on. So, are people living too long? I guess it depends. For my family, the answer is no.