Blog: Living to 115

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Burt Ross

I recently read a report in the New York Times that immediately caught my attention. It proclaimed that 115 years is the longest humans can live. This at first blush was not bad news. I could now consider myself middle-aged at 74, whereas up till now I was aged, elderly and just downright long in the tooth.

The record for longevity (not including biblical accounts) was set by a Jeanne Calment, who took her last breath at age 122 while in a nursing home in France back in 1997. Dr. Vig, an expert on aging at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, has expressed doubts that we will ever see the likes of Jeanne Calment again. “It seems highly likely we have reached our ceiling. From now on, this is it. Humans will never get older than 115,” Dr. Vig concluded.

Now I don’t wish to argue with the esteemed Dr. Vig, but if Ms. Calment made it to 122, I don’t know why I should settle for a mere 115. James Vaupel, the director of the Max-Planck Odense Center of Biodemography of Aging, seems to agree with me. Mr. Vaupel does not believe for one moment we are reaching a life span limit. He has called the new study a travesty. Hooray for Mr. Vaupel! 

I see no need to quit at 115, or even 122 for that matter. Methuselah is reported to have lived 969 years. Now that’s what I call a long life. Of course, the lyricist Ira Gershwin makes it clear in “Porgy and Bess” that “de tings dat yo’ lible to read in the Bible—It ain’t necessarily so.”  (My computer’s spell check is going crazy.)

Now let’s get one thing straight. Longevity should not be a goal in and of itself. Apparently, old man Methuselah was not doing well at 900, or at least that is what the song implies, “Methuslah lived nine hundred years. But who calls dat livin’ when no gal will give in to no man what’s nine hundred years.” I could not have said it better. (My spell check just crashed.)

It seems like Methuselah was not attracting the ladies at 900, so perhaps I could seek a more realistic goal—let’s say 800 years. Even if I were to settle for a quarter of that, and I am not yet willing to do so, then I strongly urge Congress to consider raising the minimum age for medicare before we all go bankrupt.