As our lifespans get longer, a key question arises: how do you extend a human being? Is it just about making them live longer, or is there something deeper to it?
Note from present me: This was written far before COVID, or Shanah, but I find its message to be poignant still even with all things considered.
I (alongside many others) believe that what matters in the end really has nothing to do with age longevity. Rather, it depends on something called healthspan. Why live as a husk of your former self? You might be alive, but that doesn’t matter if you have a series of physical and mental issues that need to be fixed. In reality, there’s nothing “longevity” about this.
Instead, we should be prioritizing someone’s health over their lifespan. This seems counterintuitive at first; besides, no one wants to say “oh, this option will make you die sooner!”. However, think of it this way: you have a choice of being healthy yet living a shorter life, or living with a multitude of problems but living much longer. It seems like that latter causes the disadvantage and advantage to cross out, making it null. What seems like the better option now?
There’s many ways we can work to improve healthspan. Firstly, we can utilize the care of elder housing and hospice. These two systems can be seen as “defeating” — and, to be fair, they aren’t all perfect — but they do a good job of providing affordable care to those nearest to the end of life. Secondly, we can start early and build good habits such as sleep, exercise, and meditation in order to improve our health early on. This allows us not just greater lifespan, but greater healthspan as well.
The healthspan movement is fortunately gaining rapid speed. At the same time, it is important for us all to know what can be done to help increase the amount of time we are on this Earth and are healthy, not just the former.