ShareThis Page
Tom Purcell: The downside to living so long |

Tom Purcell: The downside to living so long

Boy, are Americans getting old.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the median age — the age at which half of the population is older and half is younger — hit an all-time high of 38.0 in 2017.

Why is it rising? Because our massive baby-boom generation continues to go geezer, while young moms and dads are having way fewer kids than American parents used to.

What’s more interesting is that the number of Americans who were 100 years or older also hit a record in 2017 — a number that is poised to explode.

According to the World Future Society, we are in the early phases of a superlongevity revolution. Thanks to advances in nanotechnology and cell and gene manipulation, scientists may eventually learn how to keep humans alive for 120 to 500 years.

Though it’s great that Americans are living longer, I’m not sure I’d ever want to live THAT long.

Look, I’m 56, a tail-end baby boomer. If I was confident I’d be vibrant and healthy for another 44 years, I might finally get around to marrying and starting a family!

My parents are of the silent generation. They’re in in their 80s. I’d love for them to live well beyond 100, so that I can enjoy their company at Sunday dinners for another 20 years or more.

But there are downsides to living so long.

Healthcare costs are already out of control, and the majority of that spending goes to the elderly. Such costs may become unmanageable as our median age keeps climbing.

If we live 100 years or more, how are we going to pay for it? Living is expensive. Are we going to work 50 years, retire, burn through our nest eggs, then spend 20 or 30 years greeting customers at Walmart?

And what of our younger generations, kids who are notorious slackers? Mother to son in year 2075: “You’re 100 years old!When are you going to move out and get a job?”

Four years shy of 60, I’m already showing signs of fatigue. I don’t know when it started, but, like my elderly father, I groan every time I slowly pull myself out of a chair.

Sure, the “primitive male” part of me thinks I could still handle myself if a bar brawl were to break out — but I’d have to do 30 minutes of jumping jacks before I could even think
about participating.

Besides, in my experience, life is largely made up of colds, bills, speeding tickets and people who let you down. These experiences are connected together by a series of mundane tasks. The drudgeries are occasionally interrupted by a wonderful meal, a really good laugh or a romantic evening with a lovely lady. Then the mundane stuff starts all over again.

I don’t think I want 500 years of that.

At 56, you see, it seems to me that the key to human happiness is not an abundance of a thing, but a lack of it.

Doesn’t pie taste better when we know it’s the last slice? Doesn’t a football game capture our attention more when it’s the last of the season — the one that determines who goes out the winner and who goes out the loser? Isn’t a comedian funnier when he exits the stage BEFORE we want him to go?

Besides, if I were to live to 500, I’d have to endure 111 more presidential elections — a punishment I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy!

Tom Purcell, a freelance writer, lives in Library. Visit him on the web at or
email him at

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.