How Old Would You Be If You Didn’t Know How Old You Are?
By Dale Peterson, MD –
Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, a prominent U.S. physician, recently posted an editorial in which he explained why he didn’t want to live beyond age 75. I disagree with his view of aging, but it is one that is far too common among people in the United States.
One of the reasons Dr. Emanuel hopes he dies at age 75 is because he believes that most elderly people have lived too long and have therefore become disabled, faltering, and in a state of decline that makes them unable to contribute to work, society, and the world. He states that old age causes people to become feeble, ineffectual, and pathetic.
He also believes that it is wrong to live beyond 75 because it deprives one’s children of the opportunity to live their own lives outside of their parent’s shadow. He feels that by that age creativity, originality, and productivity are gone for the vast majority of individuals.
Not surprisingly, Dr. Emanuel considers activities conducive to living a long and healthy life (exercising, doing mental puzzles, eating a healthy diet, and popping vitamins and other supplements) signs of a misguided and potentially destructive attempt to extend life. He suggests that people should ask themselves whether their consumption is worthy of their contribution.
I refuse to accept Dr. Emanuel’s fatalist view of aging. Meaningful life need not end at age 75. I know many people who are living active, fruitful lives well into their nineties. While Dr. Emanuel considers them an aberration or outlier I believe that they should be the norm.
I firmly believe that aging is not an excuse for not feeling well. While each of us may lessen the intensity of our physical activity as grow older, aging should not prevent people from continuing to do things they enjoy. Their presence should not limit their children’s ability to shine. Rather it should play a valuable role in helping their grandchildren develop strong values that will guide them throughout their lives.
Virtually all of the maladies attributed to old age are simply manifestations of diseases that result from a failure to provide the body with the support necessary to perform maintenance and repair activities on a daily basis.
One of my nutritional mentors was fond of asking, How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you are? It was his way of saying that when it comes to health and vitality chronological age is irrelevant. I have known people who felt old and decrepit before they turned thirty and people who felt vibrant and alive when they were over 100. The most important factors in both instances were how well they had nourished their body, mind, soul, and spirit during their time on earth.
Contrary to Dr. Emanuel’s belief, activities conducive to living a long and healthy life are not misguided. They are critical to maintaining physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual vitality as long as we live. Those who choose to make wise choices need not set an arbitrary age beyond which creativity and productivity are but distant memories. They can look forward to enjoying life until the day they die, even if it is far beyond Dr. Emanuel’s arbitrary limit of 75 years.
Dr. Dale Peterson is a graduate of the University of Minnesota College of Medicine. He completed his residency in FamilyMedicine at the University of Oklahoma. He is a past president of the Oklahoma Academy of Family Physicians. He had a full-time family practice in Edmond, Oklahoma, for over 20 years and was a Chief of Staff of the Edmond Hospital. He was active in teachingfor many years as a Clinical Professor of Family Medicine through the Oklahoma University Health Sciences Center.
Dr. Peterson left his full-time family practice in 1999 to consult with individuals who are seeking ways to restore and maintain their health through improved nutrition and other lifestyle changes. He founded the Wellness Clubs of America to give people access to credible information on supporting and maintaining their health. His monthly wellness letter, Health by Design, and his Health by Design E-Newsletter provide helpful information to individuals interested in preventing and conquering health challenges. He is the author of Building Health by Design: Adding Life to Your Years and Years to Your Life .
Dr. Peterson speaks regularly on subjects related to health and nutrition. He hosted a weekly radio program,Your Health Matters, on KTOK in Oklahoma City for five years. For the past nine years he has addressed questions from across the nation on his Your Health Matters weekly teleconference.He offers a free video LifeXtension course at www.drdalepeterson.com.