January 24, 2018

75 Good Years

After age 75, no more tests or treatments.

Most modern "health care" systems go to extreme lengths to extend life. Since a lot of that is private, for profit health care, I hypothesize that the reason for that is because in business one of the golden rules is "Don't kill your customers", or in this case, "Don't let your customers die, ever, if you can make a buck by extending their lives.

Rarely mentioned in the high tech life extension at any cost debate is the issue of quality of life. We might be getting quantity, but what about the quality? Should we really be led kicking and screaming all the way to the grave? Wouldn't it be better to go out on your own terms?

Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel agrees, and says that 75 is a good age for him to die. In fact, he believes we would be doing society and loved ones a favour by doing the same.

“A good life is not just about stacking up the years and living as long as possible. People need to focus on quality of life. Setting an actual date for a good time to die helps you focus on what is important in your life. 
What I am trying to do is delineate my views for a good life and make my friends and others think about how they want to live as they grow older. 
We avoid constantly thinking about the purpose of our lives and the mark we will leave. Is making money, chasing the dream, all worth it? 
Indeed, most of us have found a way to live our lives comfortably without acknowledging, much less answering, these big questions on a regular basis. We have gotten into a productive routine that helps us ignore them. 
The deadline also forces each of us to ask whether our consumption is worth our contribution."

The doctor opposes physician-assisted suicide, and instead is a proponent of simply allowing the body to age naturally. He says when he reaches 75 he will refuse all tests and treatments, including the blood pressure medication he takes now.

“I’m not suggesting people kill themselves at 75 but, rather, let nature take its course.”

While some propose extreme life extension, what the world doesn't need right now is a bunch of 300 year olds. We do need to leave something for our children and future generations that will inhabit this crowed planet. Perhaps 75 years of consumption is enough.

It would also simplify things to know when you intend to tell the medical establishment to leave you alone so you can age and die peacefully as nature intended.

I think I would like 75 good years. We will see how I feel if I make it to 74 years of age.


  1. Anonymous1/25/2018

    I just found your blog a couple of months ago and have been working my way though your older posts, and thoroughly enjoying them.
    As the wife of a 72 year old I have some comments on this post.

    Age should never be a factor in deciding when to end medical care, my husband is in better shape than my sons.He walks 3 hours a day, keeps the sidewalks clear of snow for our 24 year old neighbour, helps me maintain out large vegetable garden in summer and helps with the canning of said vegetables.
    He also helps my son with his computer problems and fixing any electrical/mechanical problems in his home.
    He's not on any medication....but if and when it is needed he will be taking it.

    His father lived until he was 88 a healthy, outgoing man. He deteriorated in his last year and we were not aggressive in his medical treatments.
    As a former RN I can tell you that how people live is more important than age, when determining treatment.

    Recently I have seen a lot of Boomer Bashing online. I know this is a reaction to the times we live in and people have to blame someone for the state of the world today.
    I think it is sad and scary that old people are the scapegoats instead of the government and corporation who got us into this mess.


    1. Marieann,

      Health is everything, and so many of us find that out after it is too late. It is wonderful to approach old age with our physical and metal faculties intact. As a former RN you must have a lot of insight into health care, and how people live. And die.

      The Boomers do take a lot of heat, but they (we) didn't create the world we live in single handed. What we have today is the result of thousands of years of what is often a pretty sad history. Whatever its shortcomings, the Boomer Generation has made amazing achievements that they should be proud of, such as civil rights and environmental movements, hippie generation, women's liberation, and the list goes on...

      So happy you found our blog. Hi to your healthy hubby.

  2. Anonymous1/25/2018

    I agree - it does no good to "bash" others. But it seems that governments and corporations cannot create a mess without the support of stakeholders and citizens. We are the governments and corporations.
    What I love about NBA is that we are actively practicing ways that change how we function within these entities.
    Baby steps, slow and steady. - Erin

    1. Erin,

      I think it is always good to look in the mirror before criticizing others. But you are right - we are the government, and corporations. We are the system because it is made up of people. That is why we can change it all - because it is us, and depends on our acceptance and cooperation. Change that, and you change everything.

      You never know when the baby's going to start picking up speed. I think it is happening. Now.

    2. Anonymous1/26/2018

      Yes! Run, baby, run! ;) -Erin

  3. Anonymous1/25/2018

    If we're going to focus on quality of life, we shouldn't attempt to assign a random number beyond which people won't use the medical system. Some people are living healthy, vibrant lives in their 80s and 90s and some 50 year olds have broken down unhealthy bodies. For some, it's a matter of luck but for many, it's how they've lived their lives. My parents are in their late 60s. They've never smoked, rarely drink alcohol and have never done drugs. They're pretty active, they both maintain a healthy weight and have a wonderful group of friends. Other than my mom's asthma medicine, they take nothing. There's every reason to believe, and hope, that they will live rich lives into their 80s. Why not? They certainly bring a great deal of joy to their children, grandchildren and friends.

    Now what I do think should happen, is to remove profit from the medical system. My husband is a physician assistant and I think of a story he told me often. A woman in her mid-80s was in the ICU. She had terminal cancer and was basically in the shutting down phase of life. A surgeon, who wanted to make some money, convinced her that an operation might extend her life "some". He gave her false hope so he could profit. There are many wonderful doctors and definitely some unethical ones. I think we need to stop rewarding doctors for the number of procedures they do and be a bit more logical about treatment plans. The woman from the story spend her last days recovering from an unnecessary operation, when she could have been comfortable in hospice.


    1. Kate,

      We really have to rethink what we are doing in health care. Eventually, money will decide for us - we just won't be able to afford to extend older people's lives.

      It would be a better use of limited resources to focus on the other end of life - the beginning. That means funding health care for mothers, babies, and those with challenges getting a good start in life.

      My dad had a beautiful, pain-free death in hospice, 10 years before he would have turned 75. That was too soon for me, but that is the way I want to go, with acceptance and calm rather than fighting and pleading for one more minute to buy.

      I do hope that all sentient beings can live long, healthy lives, and then pass on wonderfully and contentedly. It won't happen unless we find the courage to speak of such things, and make both philosophical and practical preparations.

  4. When I first read this post I knew it would spark some interesting conversations. It's something we often don't want to talk about.

    Last week I turned 60. The day before my birthday was spent at the doctor's office. Once again I had to state why I won't continue to have screening tests and limit medication. I'm considered palliative care only, but have to fight to continue that course. My doctor is young and hasn't come up against someone who is making the choice to not prolong life. I know that he's following protocol that he was taught in med school, but I'm hoping I'm paving the way for someone he may treat down the line.

    This is decision each of us must face. The fact that I have a genetic disease for which there is no cure or treatment, informs everything that I do. I have no desire to prolong my life and would make the choice to end it if the quality of my life is gone.

    I understand if someone is healthy and fit why they would want to live into their eighties, but I see my mom who is 84, in constant pain, unable to care for herself and I know I don't want that for myself. Her doctor continues to badger her for testing and medications that I find unnecessary, but it's her decision.

    It's something we all must decide for ourselves, but I really don't want to end up in a nursing home for the remainder of my life. Better to end it with dignity and on my own terms.

    1. Marla,

      As you know, Linda is facing the very same decisions you are talking about. In Canada assisted dying became legal in the summer of 2016, which is suppose to make the right to die more accessible to those that want it. Some say the law is too restrictive, but I am sure it will evolve as we gain more experience in this area. The current restrictions are being challenged in court.

      We have read many stories about people who have chosen when, how, and where they will die, and without fail, each story is amazing.

      However people feel about medically assistance in death, it is a much needed conversation that we need to have as a country, community, family and as individuals. I am happy that our laws changed - when it comes to my own death, I would like to go as you described. And I am happy that this has the potential to help Linda as well as we plan for her final days.

      I am glad you know what you are doing. It takes a lot of planning when it comes to death, and that is best started as soon as possible. Most people will never do this, and instead may experience a less than satisfactory passing, not to mention the burden that is placed on other family members when an unprepared death occurs.

      Happy birthday.

  5. I am totally on the same page as your post, Gregg and yours and Marla's comments. I delighted to hear that assisted dying is legal in Canada and Canadians are hashing out the particulars. I'm sure you know that we have several states in the U.S. who have adopted Right-to-Die laws. They are hashing out the details too. Laws like this seem only reasonable to me. You don't have to get medical assistance to die if you don't want to. But if you do, I am glad to see we have laws in some places that give you that choice.

    Marla, it takes a lot of guts to stand up to doctors who want to do endless testing, medicating and treating. Cheers for you for standing up and remaining true to yourself and your desires.

    Many years ago, I had a friend who had a small child who had several developmental problems, muscular dystrophy was only one of the possibilities. All of the diseases medical people wanted to test for were terminal illnesses. The tests were invasive and had high risk of causing other problems. They were told that treatment would NOT likely change regardless of what the test results showed. So the parents refused testing. The doctor reported them to child services for child neglect and when I knew them they were being monitored by child services. I was in total support of their decision to not test. I don't know what the outcome was as I moved from the area and didn't keep in contact.

    I like the idea of deciding ahead of time what your limits are as far as medical intervention is; like no tests no treatments after a certain age. I have a rough idea about it too. I have rehearsed in my mind about how those conversations might go if I'm in a position of being diagnosed with something serious. I've told a couple of my family members what I plan to do and not do. I'm really not interested in some of the treatments I see people go through or the quality of life that remains, not just physical health quality of life but overall well being. Prolonging life after a certain point makes zero sense to me. So many elderly people are intensely lonely among other things. Those medical people and others who want to keep them alive don't go see them, don't have relationships with them, don't go help them with the many problems they have just getting alone day to day, yet they want to prolong their lives. Why?

    Such a good post and stimulating conversation.


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