A recent OlderBeast article (Midlife Crisis? Nah…It’s Just the Start of Your Longest Run) highlighted that we have an opportunity to enhance the direction and meaning of life, as we start its longest chapter.
How long? With life expectancy for healthy people continuing to rise – and anti-aging science breakthroughs in the middle-distance – maybe really long.
Let’s discuss this with actual numbers, as positive motivation to double down on your fitness, nutrition and wellness.
But first, so reading this doesn’t feel like talking to a life insurance actuary, here’s the set-up for two analogies we’ll return to below.
#1: Guy walks into a NY deli five minutes before closing time and orders an elephant sandwich. The counterman says “What, you think I’m gonna start a new elephant at this hour?”
#2. Sir Ernest Shackleton, his ship trapped in Antarctic ice during the winter of 1916, navigated a small boat 830 miles to the nearest civilization on remote South Georgia island, using only sextant and compass.
baseline: expected longevity at age 40
Whether you’re 40, 50, 60 or 70…barring accident or serious disease, statistics say you’ve got a lot of life in front of you, man.
While the average life expectancy for a U.S. male* is 76.5 years, this is an “expected as of birth” number that includes early mortality. And it averages together people across the whole spectrum of healthiness.
Numbers go significantly up for cohorts who have already lived a certain amount of time, and then way up if you look at the “longer than average” part of the outcome distribution curve for each age cohort.
Example (from U.S. Social Security data, using approximate #s):
At 40, male life expectancy = 78.5. I realize this still doesn’t sound all that high, but it’s a whole-population average. At 40 you have a 55% of living beyond 80, and a 22% chance of living beyond 90.
Of course, no man can fully control this. But it’s well accepted that if you eat well, exercise and manage stress, your odds of being in this longer-lived part of the population go way up, brother.
So unscientifically, let’s say a 40-year-old OlderBeast should imagine life until at least 80, and quite possibly 90.
If life were a football game, this 40-year-old is still in the 2nd quarter.
* I’m aware and very pleased women read OlderBeast, too. They relate to many of its themes despite the “bro” language. With that in mind: ladies, you can add a few years to each of the #s here, or use the link at the end of the next section to see the (even better) female data.
life expectancy at ages 50, 60 and 70
Here’s data for different current ages. It might seem counter-intuitive that #s go up for older guys; this is because if you’ve “cleared” risk of certain things in the 40s and 50s, your longevity odds go up.
At 50: Avg. = 79.6 years, 55% live beyond 80, and 20% beyond 90
By 60: Avg. = 81.5 years, 60% live beyond 80, and 24% beyond 90
At 70: Avg. = 84.2 years, 74% live beyond 80, 29% live beyond 90, and 2% live beyond 100 (I’m just saying)
Conclusion? It’s not even close to “closing time” yet, dude. If you live like an OlderBeast, the odds say you’ve got plenty of time to “start a new elephant.” Probably multiple ones!
If you want to see a fascinating picture of this data in easy-to-use visual form, check out this online tool.
longevity: Future Picture
Many smart people believe we’re within 20 years of major breakthroughs that will have huge impacts on life expectancy.
That’s from progress in how to treat or cure things that can kill us before the end of our “natural” life span. And, from advances in understanding what “aging” really is at the cellular level…creating the possibility of extending the “natural” life span by years or even decades.
Imagining living deep into your 90’s or even way past 100 isn’t an all-positive picture. I get that. It’s also an epic challenge for human societies from economic and governance standpoints. But that’s a topic for a different website.
My point is this. The preceding sections show many of us have 3-4 decades remaining on our road, if we take care of ourselves and are blessed to avoid certain “no recourse” health challenges.
Based on rapidly evolving science, that road might extend even more while we’re driving on it.
With the journey ahead so potentially long, this is like Shackleton navigating to South Georgia Island. Even slight variations off his intended course would, over the miles, make him miss the island by a large distance.
For us, differences in our workout regimen, nutrition, and mind/spirit care will compound over the years (positively or negatively), and drive us into very different parts of the actuaries’ age-outcome buckets.
Late 20’s through early 40’s is an intensely-busy time of life that often has a short-term focus. Pregnancies and then kids, with all their rapidly-occurring milestones. Striving to make good things happen in careers. Maybe moving cities or at least houses (maybe multiple times).
While there may still be rarely a dull moment, the OlderBeast phase is a time when longer-term planning can kick in. As I hope this article highlights, that’s not just financial or where-to-live planning.
It’s about planning long-term care of yourself…hopefully very long term.
“Time everlasting…time to play ‘B’ sides.” (Blue Oyster Cult, Burnin’ For You—click to listen)
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