How Long Can We Live


Even a Tree Is Old at THAT Age!

You end up as you deserve.  In old age you must put up with the face, the friends, the health, and the children you have earned.

- Judith Viorst

Hava Rexha, the oldest woman in Albania at 121 years old, hugs Xhersi, one of her great grandchildren at her home in Shushice, on 8 July 2002.  Hava's one resentment was being forced to wed at 14 to a man who claimed to be 30 but was "about 60 and married twice before as well."  That was in 1894, 20 years before the outbreak of the First World War.

Rexha celebrates her 122nd birthday on 14 August.  Photo by Arben Celi/Reuters

Source: Reuters 8 July 2002

World's Oldest Person Gets the Last Laugh

My grandmother is over 80 and still doesn't need glasses.  Drinks right out of the bottle.

- Henny Youngman  

Mrs Calment: "I think I will die laughing."

Marseille - The local dignitary who bought Jeanne Calment's apartment on an annuity arrangement 30 years ago thought he was on to a good thing: at age 90 she was unlikely to live much longer, so he would be able to take over the property.

But yesterday, as Mrs Calment remained hale and relatively hearty at age 120, relatives of Andre-Francois Raffray were preparing to bury him: he died on Christmas Day, aged a mere 77.  Friends of Mr Raffray, a solicitor in the southern town of Aries, had in the past joked about his unfortunate arrangement with Jeanne Calment, which he had always refused to discuss with the press.

Under the life annuity scheme, a popular arrangement in France, he was to pay her 2,500 francs (NZ$800) a month for however long she lived, after which he would become the owner of her first-floor apartment.  Mrs Calment, who earlier this year became the oldest living person known anywhere in the world, and who remembers meeting painter Vincent Van Gogh as a girl, had herself joked about it.  "In life, people sometimes make rotten deals," she said.

To make things even worse, the apartment Mr Raffray had contracted for has been empty for a decade, since she moved into a nearby nursing home.  Officials at the home said that Mrs Calment, who has no living heirs, had inquired about the health of the notary only the day before Christmas.

Mrs Calment, who has a reputation as a mischievous joker, once said: "Always keep your smile.  That's how I explain my long life.  I think I will die laughing." - AFP

Source: The Dominion Thursday 28 December 1995 photo credit Reuters

Jeanne Calment, the world's oldest person, died at 122 on Monday 4 August 1997.

Betting on death is usually lucrative - but here's another example of a "rotten deal" - this person lived long despite disease rather than old age, but the case is similar to Jeanne Calment's...

She Beat Odds; Dealer Won't Pay

by Monica Yant Kinney

When M Smith was diagnosed with cancer and AIDS in the early 1990s, she was given two years to live.  That she is still very much alive today is good news - to everyone but the people who bet big on her dying.  Had Smith perished on schedule, Life Partners Incorporated would have made $60,000 on a $90,000 wager - a 66% return on the investment.  Instead, the company that expected to make a profit on Smith's life insurance policy wound up spending $100,000 more keeping her alive.

Now, Life Partners' attempt to wriggle out of the relationship has led to one of the most morbid contract disputes ever filed in New Jersey Superior Court.  Stung by the costly miscalculation, the publicly traded company ( is balking at paying Smith's combined health and life insurance premiums.  A stranger claiming to represent angry investors has twice called Smith at home to ask her how she was feeling.  All of it has her lawyers wondering whether Life Partners is trying to hasten Smith's death over stress about whether she's going to lose her health insurance.

"They were in a risky business, hoping for a massive windfall," notes Ronda Goldfein, executive director of the AIDS Law Project in Philadelphia.  "And when they don't get it, they slowly torture her and eat away at her peace of mind," she said.

Dying for Dollars

Smith felt like a normal, healthy 30-something when she got her dual death sentence in 1992.  "I went to the gym the day I saw the doctor," the former New Jersey resident recalled in an interview Thursday.  (She requested anonymity because of the stigma of her disease.)  She began treatment, but wasn't optimistic.  Back then, it seemed as if everyone who had AIDS died quickly.

Single, self-employed and with little savings, Smith was intrigued by an ad offering to buy her life insurance.  The terminally ill person gets money to live comfortably until the end - and then, the company makes a killing.  "It's ghoulish, but all insurance is a bit ghoulish," says Goldfein, who oversaw "tons" of deals like Smith's in the early 1990s.  "AIDS was a sure thing."

And so, in 1994, Smith sold her $150,000 life insurance policy to Life Partners Incorporated of Waco, Texas, for $90,000.  As part of the contract, Life Partners set aside $5,510.64 to pay the premiums for Smith's health- and life-insurance policies, which were linked and could not be separated.  By investing in her fate, Life Partners assumed responsibility for the premiums as long as she lived.  "Purchaser," the contract read, "agrees to make any necessary contributions to the escrow fund to pay future premiums in the event that escrowed funds are exhausted and Seller shall have no further liability for payment of premiums on the policy."

Smith defied the odds.  She recently turned 50 - and thanks to daily medicine, says she generally feels fine.  Though Life Partners has wowed investors with regular dividends and an average 16% return, the Smith case has been all pain, no gain.  The cost of insuring her has jumped from $3,000 a year to $26,000 - more than she earns in a year.

Her lawyer, Jacob Cohn, feels no sympathy for a company that normally profits handsomely from death.  "They're not a charity.  These people win by having her die fast.  They were not counting on a revolution in the treatment of AIDS," notes Cohn, of the Cozen O'Connor firm, who took Smith's case for free.

Life Partners' president and General Counsel, Scott Peden, declined comment about the lawsuit - which he said he believes is the first of its kind in the company's 15-year history of helping "thousands of terminally ill patients."  Life Partners wants the case dismissed.  In e-mails between the lawyers, Peden said Life Partners paid Smith's bills as an act of goodwill, not obligation.  "We didn't buy her health insurance.  There's no value there, it doesn't benefit us," Peden told me in a brief phone interview Friday.  "I wish I could get somebody to make my house payment for me, but that's not going to happen."

Well, it could happen. If, say, a company hoping to make some money agreed to do it in a contract.

Monica Yant Kinney may be reached at

Source: 22 January 2006 © Philadelphia Inquirer and wire service sources all rights reserved

World’s Oldest Man Says Sorry for His Long Life

by Leo Lewis

With Japan’s welfare system buckling under the demands of an ageing society, the world’s oldest man apologised yesterday for his longevity.  As Tomoji Tanabe, 111, received his certificate from Guinness World Records, the former engineer, who never touches alcohol, said that his feat of survival was nothing special.  "I have been around too long," he joked, "I am sorry."  Mr Tanabe added his customary explanation of how he has managed to reach such a ripe old age: "Not drinking alcohol is the best formula for keeping myself healthy," he said.  Other residents of his village attributed Mr Tanabe’s long life to a diet that consists chiefly of vegetables and very little fried food.

His explanation fuels a continuing mystery about the ideal formula for longevity - as each new holder of the title is crowned, each attributes his or her success to diets, lifestyles and habits that differ widely.  Some have said that fresh air is the key, others have been heavy smokers.  Some have taken vigorous exercise, others have sworn by periods of inactivity.

The Mayor of Miyakonojo, the village where Mr Tanabe lives with his family, presented the certificate to its famous resident after nearly 5 months of birthdate verification by the Guinness World Records team.  Mr Tanabe unofficially inherited the title when its previous incumbent, Emiliano Mercado del Toro, of Puerto Rico, died in January, aged 115.  The crowning of Mr Tanabe, who was born in the southern island of Kyushu in 1895, brings the coveted "double trophy" back to Japan.  Yone Minagawa, who lives in the same prefecture, is 114 and holds the title of world’s oldest woman.*

Japan’s population of centenarians is the largest in the world.  Most of the 28,000 Japanese who have made it beyond 100 are women and the highest concentration of the very elderly is in the southern part of the archipelago.  The area around Hiroshima and the island of Okinawa are especially rich in former "world’s oldest" title holders.

The number of centenarians has risen 160-fold since records began in the 1960s.  Although Japan is proud of its record-breaking longevity, the success of Mr Tanabe comes as the country is running short of ideas for how to solve its ageing crisis.  With the fertility rate still at record lows, government and private sector efforts to stimulate the birthrate have met with little success.  As the number of children dwindles, the future welfare burden for working-age Japanese may become intolerably large.  The problem is already acute in the very rural areas where the likes of Mr Tanabe and Ms Yone have grown so old.  The few children who are born in those regions move quickly to the big cities when they grow up, pushing the average age of some villages above 50.

bulletThe highest confirmed age reached by a man is 120 years, 237 days.  Shigechiyo Izumi of Tokunoshima Island in Japan worked until he was 105, drank barley wine and took up smoking aged 70
bulletThe longest confirmed lifespan on record was that of Jeanne Louise Calment of France.  Aged 14 when the Eiffel Tower was built, she also met Vincent van Gogh.  She died in 1997 aged 122 years, 164 days
bulletFred Hale Sr of Maine, US was 113 when he died in 2004.  The world's oldest holder of a valid driving licence as well as its oldest man, Hale had nonetheless stopped driving because "slow drivers annoyed him"

Taken from UCLA Gerontology Research Group; ARC Aging Research Centre;

Source: 19 June 2007

* Fukuoka Woman Certified as World's Oldest Person Dies

Yone Minagawa, who had been certified by Britain's Guinness World Records as the world's oldest person at age 114 earlier this year, died of old age Monday evening, informed sources said.  Minagawa, from Fukuchi town in Fukuoka Prefecture, became the world's oldest person on 28 January 2007 after American women Emma Faust Tillman died that day at the age of 114.  In May, Fukuchi town asked Guinness World Records through the Internet to award Minagawa a certificate.

Source: 13 August 2007

How Long Can We Live?

There is good evidence to suggest that human lifespans in industrial societies will go on increasing.  Researchers at the University of California-Berkeley have examined the detailed records of deaths in Sweden from 1861 to the present day.  These are the longest and most accurate records of longevity ever compiled.  The team found that the maximum age that people live to in Sweden is steadily going up and shows no sign of levelling off.

The scientists say this brings into question the belief held by some that there is somehow a biological limit to longevity.  "We have shown that the maximum lifespan is changing.  It is not a biological constant," said Professor John Wilmoth.  "Whether or not this can go on indefinitely is difficult to say."

Although such reliable data as those recorded in Sweden are not available in other countries, Professor Wilmoth believes the findings of his team's analysis are applicable to populations in other industrialised nations.  In the 1860s, the oldest age in Sweden was about 100.  In the 1960s, it was around 105.  Today, it has gone up to about 108.

The UC-Berkeley team, writing in the journal Science, say that increased longevity can be due to numerous factors, including better sanitation and improved healthcare.  And they say that with continued improvements in these areas, particularly medical technology, there is every reason to suggest lifespans will continue to edge upwards past 110.  "Human progress is real, somehow," Professor Wilmoth said.  "We are changing the limits of the human life span over time."

Many scientists believe there is a set limit to lifespan because the body's organs and tissue begin to wear out at a steady rate over time.  Much of the research into ageing aims to get a better understanding of the biological processes which trigger the steady deterioration in the cells that make up our bodies.

When Jeanne Calment of France died in 1997 at 122 years of age, she was acclaimed as the longest-lived person.  But there are unverified accounts of people living even longer.

Source: Thursday 28 September 2000

Who wants to Live Forever?

A Scientific Breakthrough Could Mean Humans Live for Hundreds of Years

by Steve Conner

By tweaking our DNA, we could soon survive for hundreds of years – if we want to.  A genetically engineered organism that lives 10 times longer than normal has been created by scientists in California.  It is the greatest extension of longevity yet achieved by researchers investigating the scientific nature of ageing.  If this work could ever be translated into humans, it would mean that we might one day see people living for 800 years. But is this ever going to be a realistic possibility?

Valter Longo is one of the small but influential group of specialists in this area who believes that an 800-year life isn't just possible, it is inevitable.  It was his work at the University of Southern California that led to the creation of a strain of yeast fungus that can live for 10 weeks or more, instead of dying at its usual maximum age of just one week.  By deleting two genes within the yeast's genome and putting it on a calorie-restricted diet, Longo was able to extend 10-fold the lifespan of the same common yeast cells used by bakers and brewers.  The study is published later this week in the journal Public Library of Science Genetics.

There is, of course, a huge difference between yeast cells and people, but that hasn't stopped Longo and his colleagues suggesting that the work is directly relevant to human ageing and longevity.  "We're setting the foundation for reprogramming healthy life. If we can find out how the longevity mechanism works, it can be applied to every cell in every living organism," Longo says.  "We're very, very far from making a person live to 800 years of age.  I don't think it's going to be very complicated to get to 120 and remain healthy, but at a certain point I think it will be possible to get people to live to 800.  I don't think there is an upper limit to the life of any organism."

For most gerontologists – people who study the science of ageing – such statements are almost heretical.  There is a general view in this field that there is a maximum human lifespan of not more than about 125 years.  Jeanne Calment, the oldest documented person, died at the age of 122 years and 164 days.  According to the orthodox view of ageing, she was one of the few lucky enough to have reached that maximum, upper limit of human lifespan.

The attitude of most mainstream gerontologists towards the idea that people may one day live for many centuries – or even 1,000 years, as one scientific maverick has suggested – is best summed up by Robin Holliday, a distinguished British gerontologist, in his recent book Aging: The Paradox of Life.  "How is it possible to make these claims?" Holliday asks.  "The first requirement is to ignore the huge literature on ageing research.  The second is to ignore the enormous amount of information that has been obtained by the study of human age-associated disease; in other words, to ignore the many well-documented textbooks on human pathology.  The third is to propose that in the future, stem-cell technology, and other technologies, will allow vulnerable parts of the body to be replaced and/or repaired.  The new 'bionic' man will therefore escape from ageing," Holliday says.

Like many experts on the science of ageing, Holliday is deeply sceptical about the idea that the ageing process can somehow be circumvented, allowing people to extend their lives by decades or even centuries.  "The whole [anti-ageing] movement not only becomes science fiction; it is also breathtakingly arrogant," Holliday says.  An immense hinterland of biomedicine suggests that death at a maximum age of about 125 is inevitable, he says.

But that is precisely what Valter Longo is suggesting with his work on the yeast that can live longer than 10 weeks.  "We got a 10-fold life-span extension, which is, I think, the longest that has ever been achieved in any organism," he says.  By knocking out two genes, known as RAS2 and SCH9, which promote ageing in yeast and cancer in humans, and putting the microbes on a diet low in calories, Longo achieved the sort of life extension that should in theory be impossible.  As Anna McCormick, head of genetics and cell biology at the US National Institute on Aging, remarked: "I would say 10-fold is pretty significant."

Calorie restriction is now a well-established route to extending the lives of many organisms, from yeast and nematode worms to fruit flies and mice.  But the jury is still out on whether calorie restriction can extend the life of humans, although a diet rich in calories certainly increases the risk of obesity, diabetes and other life-shortening conditions.  Biologists believe that restricting calories causes many animals to flip into a state normally reserved for near starvation.  Instead of spending their precious energy reserves on reproduction, they shut down everything but their basic body maintenance, in preparation for better times ahead when breeding would stand a better chance of success.  This idea fits in with the more general view that animals tend to follow one of two life strategies – either one of high fecundity and short lifespan, or one of long lifespan and low reproductive capacity.  Mice, for example, divert much of their limited resources to high reproduction, having several litters of young a year, but they have a short life of just a couple of years.  But bats, which are roughly the same size as mice, have just one or at most two offspring a year, and can live for 30 years or more.

Why one species of animal lives longer than another of comparable size, and why some animals appear to age faster and die younger, have been the subject of extensive scrutiny for decades.  As bats and mice show, it is possible for genes to extend lifespan – so the question is: why do they not do it more often, or even all the time?  And the logical extension of this question is: why do we age at all?  Why don't we live for ever?

One of the most convincing answers to this is known as the disposable soma theory.  In short, the idea is that genes can extend an organism's lifespan, but only as a trade-off between the costs and benefits of doing so.  It is possible to keep on mending the machinery of the body as it suffers daily wear and tear, but there comes a point when it is no longer worthwhile and the costs become too expensive, much like the point when fixing an increasingly decrepit car gets too much.  At this point the body, or "soma", becomes disposable.  By then, though, from the gene's point of view, it won't matter – as long as it has managed to "escape" this broken-down body and replicated itself inside the younger, fitter bodies of the next generation.

Longo says that the disposable soma theory, invented by Professor Tom Kirkwood of Newcastle University in the late 1970s, is one of the strongest ideas around to explain the nature of ageing.  However, Longo has another theory that is causing a second group of scientists to tear their hair out.  He believes that ageing may not simply be a side-effect of the wear and tear of life, but is also a genetically programmed condition designed to rid the population of aged individuals to make way for younger ones.  It is an alluring idea, albeit one thought to have been discredited by the evolutionary biologists George Williams and John Maynard Smith 40 years ago.  It is a common assumption among non-scientists that ageing and death occur in order to make way for the next generation, but this suggests that ageing is a genetic programme honed by natural selection.  It also assumes that it is an altruistic act brought about for the benefit of the future population.

Evolutionary biologists know that such an idea is based on "group selection" and that mathematically this cannot occur because it will always be undermined by more selfish mutants.  Organisms carrying the altruistic genes for premature ageing and death would, for instance, be susceptible to selfish-gene cheats that decide to exploit the situation to their own, and their offspring's, advantage.  They could simply live a bit longer than their peer group and so make sure they are the ones that exploit the available resources left behind by their prematurely dead peers.  But Longo is convinced that his experiments on manipulating the genes of yeast show that ageing is not a mere side-effect of life, but a deliberate, genetically programmed process honed by natural selection.  "Basically, it is the first demonstration, to our knowledge, that ageing is programmed and altruistic," Longo says.  "The organisms we have studied die long before they have to in order to provide nutrients for 'mutants' generated within their own population.  Thus, billions of organisms die early so that a few better-adapted individuals can grow."

This raises the possibility that the same process happens in humans, and that, as a result, many people are dying earlier than they need to.  "Programmed human ageing is just a possibility.  We don't know whether it's true yet or not.  But if ageing is programmed in yeast, and the [metabolic] pathway is very similar, then isn't it possible that humans also die earlier than they have to?"

Valter Longo says that no one has so far proved him to be wrong on his programmed-death idea.  But this may be one heresy too far for the rest of science.

From the Archives: Jeremy Laurance reports from Japan, the country with more centenarians than any other:

Enduring tales: the world's oldest people

Jeanne Calment

Jeanne Calment's mother, father and brother lived to 86, 93 and 97 respectively.  But nobody has eclipsed Jeanne herself, who died in 1997 aged 122 years and 164 days.  Born in 1875, she met Vincent van Gogh when she was 14, and attended the 1885 funeral of Victor Hugo.

Shigechiyo Izumi

As well as holding the title of the oldest man to have lived, Izumi, from the Japanese island of Tokunoshima, holds the record for the longest career.  A farmer, he worked from childhood until the age of 105, in a career that spanned 98 years.  In spite of a weakness for sho-chu (a barley whisky) and taking up smoking at 70, he lived to 120.  He died in 1986.

Edna Parker

Indiana-born Parker, 114, has outlived all her children, but her family includes 13 great-great-grandchildren.  Now recognised as the world's oldest living person, she grew up on a farm.  Still walking, she hobbles around her nursing home, where she enjoys reading and reciting poetry.

Charlotte Hughes

Hughes, a retired schoolteacher, is the oldest documented person in the UK.  She married her husband, Noel, at the age of 63.  He died aged 105, but Hughes went on to reach 115, dying in 1993.

Florrie Baldwin

Baldwin, born in 1896, lives in a Leeds nursing home.  Britain's oldest living woman says she remembers meeting Queen Victoria on a royal visit, and reading about the end of the Boer War.  She has outlived her husband, Clifford, by 35 years.

Henry Allingham

Allingham has found fame in recent years as the oldest veteran of the First World War, one of only a handful still alive.  Born in 1896, south London-born Allingham, 111, is also Europe's oldest living man, and in the world is second only to Japan's Tomoji Tanabe.

Source: 23 January 2008

Special Suit Simulates Life for the Elderly

A German company has developed a suit that lets people find out what it is like to be 70 years old.  Lead weights attached to the legs and arms limit the wearer's ability to move while extra padding makes it difficult to bend the knees and elbows.  A pair of earmuffs reduce the amount of noise heard and a helmet limits visibility.  And a pair of special gloves simulate what arthritis sufferers feel when they try to move their hands.

The suit, called the Age Explorer, was presented at a Berlin conference on life for the over 50s.  It is already being used in the development departments of companies building cars and household goods, the Berliner Zeitung newspaper reports.

Source: Wednesday 19 February 2003

Purpose in Life May Lessen Despair at End

by Marilyn Elias

Phoenix - People apparently approach death as they have life.  Those who found purpose and meaning in their lives feel the least despair in the final weeks, while dying patients who saw no reason for living are most distressed and want to hasten death, two new studies show.

Belief in God is helpful, but faith is not what correlates most strongly with avoiding despair at the end, Fordham University psychologist Colleen McClain says.  "It's feeling that you've accomplished something, whether through family life or work or somewhere else."  McClain and psychiatrist William Breitbart of Memorial SIoan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York reported on studies of 241 patients with less than three months to live.  They spoke at the American Psychosomatic Society meeting here.

All patients in the studies were questioned about their lives and spiritual beliefs.  As death approached, people who felt they had led productive lives weren't immune to depression, McClain says.  But they were protected from the blackest despair and "a desire to get it over with" that plagued patients who found little meaning in their lives.  Belief in an afterlife correlated with less hopelessness and, ironically, less desire to hasten death.  Adults who think there's life after death also tend to belong to traditional religious groups that forbid euthanasia or hurrying death, says University of Miami psychologist Michael McCullough, an expert on spirituality and mental health.  "Religion seems to put a big moral 'speed bump' in the way here," he says, because the power to end life is thought to belong only to God.

McCullough has just co-written a review of 120 studies on religion and depression.  Spiritual beliefs do buffer people against depression at all life stages, including the last one, he says.  "It's not huge; it's not like this is Prozac, but it is a robust and consistent effect."

Source: USA Today 11 March 2003

Methuselah Scenario

by Gregg Easterbrook

from the review of Beyond Therapy: Biotechnology and the Pursuit of Happiness: A Report by the President's Council on Bioethics

Let us ponder a few biotechnological prospects that Beyond Therapy views as probable, the first being a significant extension of the typical lifespan.  Laboratory experiments have already shown that switching off a gene that seems to dictate aging can treble the lifespan of worms and increase by 75% the lifespan of mice, which are mammals.  (Worms, flies, and mice are used for age research because they live through their normal lifespans so quickly.)  There appears no reason to assume genetically enhanced longevity will not at some point work for men and women too, though so far there have been no attempts to deactivate aging genes in people.  But changes come with longer life.  Worms and mice that are altered for extended lifespans become sterile, or barely reproduce.  It is as if nature knew all along that someone would someday figure out how to switch off the aging gene, for if very long lives were achieved, while births remained constant, there would be unmanageable population growth.  Keep in mind that the fantastic increase in the global population in the 20th century, from 1.5 billion to six billion souls, happened not so much because there were more babies - average fertility declined steadily across the world as population rose - but because there was less death: the median human lifespan almost doubling during the past century.

Imagine a reasonably near future in which the typical person lives 200 or 300 years, but the compensating demographic shift is that children become rarities - communities close most of their schools, college ceases to be a large industrial sector, you must drive a long way to find one of the few remaining Toys "R" Us, and everybody has been there, done that, regarding practically everything.  Beyond Therapy also worries that "society's openness and freshness might be diminished" if the world were populated mainly by very long-lived adults, with an ever-smaller fraction of children.  But think of the benefits: no more pop music fads!

The thought of a society that is almost entirely adult - in years if not in temperament, a distinction worth pondering - is vaguely spooky.  But then in 1900 the typical American lifespan was 46 years; by 2000, it was 77 years.  Told that typical Americans would live to 77 years, an analyst of 1900 might have worried about an enervated, geriatric nation collapsing under the weight of nursing-home costs.  Instead the adjustment to an ever-larger cohort of seniors has been fairly smooth.  Perhaps future societies will adjust just as smoothly to longer-lived members, while every new arrival of the future enjoys an incredibly spoiled childhood.

Beyond Therapy grimly ponders whether those who expect to live 200 - 300 years might be "less prepared for and less accepting of death."  The genetically engineered Methuselah could indeed take that perspective, viewing death as unthinkable, rather than as an inevitability for which the wise prepare.  Here Beyond Therapy comes perilously close to sounding as if it favours dying, or at least favours the knowledge of death as a cause of the appreciation of life, and the savouring of it.  My own pet fear in this regard is that some fantastic life-extending biotechnology will become practical just as baby boomers reach the hospice stage.  Having dreamed in the 1960s of eternal youth, boomers may attain only an eternal senescence.

Source: The New Republic post date 15 Januatry 2004 issue date 26 January 2004

Why It's Good to Be Old

  1. Kidnappers are not very interested in you.
  2. In a hostage situation you are likely to be released first.
  3. No one expects you to run into a burning building.
  4. People call at 9pm and ask, "Did I wake you?"
  5. People no longer view you as a hypochondriac.
  6. There's nothing left to learn the hard way.
  7. Things you buy now won't wear out.
  8. You can eat dinner at 4:00pm.
  9. You enjoy hearing about other people's operations.
  10. You get into a heated argument about pension claims.
  11. You have a party and the neighbours don't even realise it.
  12. You no longer think of speed limits as a challenge.
  13. You quit trying to hold your stomach in, no matter who walks into the room.
  14. You sing along with the elevator music.
  15. Your eyes won't get much worse.
  16. Your investment in health insurance is finally beginning to pay off.
  17. Your secrets are safe with your friends because they can't remember them either.
  18. Your supply of brain cells is finally down to a manageable size.
  19. You can't remember where you read this list.

Aren't We Lucky?

A group of senior citizens were sitting around talking about their ailments.  "My arms are so weak I can barely hold a cup of coffee", said one.  "Yes, I know.  My cataracts are so bad I can't even see my coffee", replied another.  "I can't turn my head because of the arthritis in my neck", said a third, to which several nodded in agreement.  My blood pressure pills make me dizzy," another went on.

"I guess that's the price we pay for getting old," winced an old man as he shook his head.

Then there was a short moment of silence.

"Well, it's not that bad" said one woman cheerfully. "Thank God, we can all still drive!"


Little old lady sat on a bench in Miami Beach.  A man walked over and sat down on the other end of the bench.  After a few moments, the woman asked, "Are you a stranger here?"

He replied, "I used to live here years ago."

"So, where were you all these years?"

"In prison," he said.

"For what did they put you in prison?"

He looked at her, and very quietly said, "I killed my wife."

"Oh," said the woman. "So you’re single...?"

Knock on Wood

Three sisters ages 72, 74, and 76 lived in a house together.  One night the 76-year-old drew a bath.  She put her foot in and paused.  She yelled down the stairs "was I getting into or out of the bath?"

The 74-year-old yelled back "I don't know.  I'll come up and see."  She started up the stairs and paused.  Then she yelled, "was I going up the stairs or down?"

The 72-year-old sat at the kitchen table having tea, listening to her sisters.  She shook her head sadly and said, "I sure hope I never get that forgetful."  She knocked on wood for good measure.  She then yelled, "I'll come up and help both of you as soon as I see who's at the door."

What Was That Again?

Two elderly ladies had been friends for many decades.  Over the years they had shared all kinds of activities and adventures.  Lately, their activities had been limited to meeting a few times a week to play cards.  One day they were playing cards when one looked at the other and said, "Now don't get mad at me - I know we've been friends for a long time but I just can't think of your name.  I've thought and thought, but I can't remember it.  Please tell me what your name is."

Her friend glared at her.  For at least three minutes she just stared.  Finally she said quietly, "How soon do you need to know?"


For articles related to ageing, including feats that can be accomplished, and a non-spiritual look at what happens after death - funerals, jerky, popsicles, fertiliser, ashes, orbit or dust - click the "Up" button below to take you to the Index page for this Older and Under section.

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