Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Outliving myself

kw: longevity

If you have one clock, you know what time it is. If you have two or more, you are never sure. Prompted by a visit to the Social Security office, I ran their Life Expectancy Calculator, which uses only age and gender. It stated that, for my age cohort, I could expect to live to age 83.6, and when I am seventy, that will be pushed out to age 85.3. Fair enough. Then I got a wild hair…

I went to the Wharton How Long Will I Live page. The entry form has about forty questions. Their results are in the form of quartiles (they have a "Your Life Expectancy" value, but it is always very nearly the same as the median):
  • First Quartile: 79.0
  • Median: 86.9
  • Third Quartile: 94.0
A third site of interest is the Living to 100 Life Expectancy Calculator. This site spreads a larger number of questions over several pages. It produced three items:
  1. A calculated longevity, 90 in my case, with the note "You could live to 99."
  2. A couple of pages of suggestions and how much each can impact life span. For example, I might add a year to my life by taking an aspirin a day (I currently take none).
  3. Personalized recommendations by the doctor who runs the site, Dr. Perls. This came to about eight pages.
Finally, I went to one more web site, which turned out to be quite interesting: Peter Russell's Virtual Age Calculator. This has about twenty items, each a drag-bar. As you drag the bar, you see your virtual age and your expected longevity change. This makes it more tempting to cheat than usual! The upshot for me was that my virtual age is 48.6 (Funny, I don't look a day under 50), and my expected life span is 95.4. That sounds a bit optimistic. The biggest single factor is that my father is 89 and his grandparents lived into their late 80s and 90s. I suspect if I backed off a few years on that drag-bar (my mother lived only 81 years), the figures would change accordingly.

None of these asked the single most significant question that affects my life: Have you had or do you have cancer? I had colorectal cancer eleven years ago, lost 40 pounds during the period when I could not eat at all, and had half my colon removed. I suspect somebody somewhere has tables that would modify these four predictions, probably in the direction of about a decade downward!

So, what'll it be: 84, 87, 90 or 95? I won't expect more than another twenty years (85 total), but I'm basing my retirement planning on the 95 figure, just so I won't go broke. And I plan to get more of the fun stuff accomplished prior to age 75; it makes for fewer regrets. P.S. I suppose your local amateur shrink will tell you I'm in my third mid-life crisis, and I'd agree!

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