“Slowing down aging” was the subject of an article in this morning’s paper. From the Orange County Register, it’s mostly an interview with David Stipp, the author of “The Youth Pill,” a book that focuses on genetic science and the future of aging. The interview, however, is less about genetic mutations and more about the implications of helping people to live well longer. Stipp is optimistic: if society will commit to the necessary research, it will happen. And a healthier old population means that older people will able to work longer—and that they’ll want to. That, and cutting the high costs of health care for the elderly, will be good for everyone.
We’re in a funny place right now — we aging folks who won’t get the benefit of much of the research that’s going on, but are, nevertheless, living longer and doing it better than past generations. We’re neither here nor there, we’re on the edge, and uncertain we’ll be along for much of what’s to come.
It can be an exciting place. We’re under threat—death isn’t that far away, no matter how we choose to ignore it. Whatever we intended to do in the past and never got done, if it can be done in the present, if it’s at all possible, we’d better do it now. Now, when there’s finally time, when we’re no longer trying to edge up a career ladder towards something bigger and better—more money, more power, some nobler goal….
It would be nice if we were all like 88 year-old Ben Oretsky in yesterday’s Press Democrat. A contractor turned clockmaker, he’s made dozens of ornate clocks—carving out thin filigreed pieces of wood to make castles, cathedrals, towers, or other fanciful structures to house them. One of the largest and most complex of these incredible time pieces took nearly 1,000 hours to complete.
His intentions for his clocks are modest. He’s never sold a single one. “How are you going to sell something that takes hundreds and hundreds of hours to make? It would be hard to put a price on them.” Although he has no intention of stopping his craft, he has thought about where the clocks should go when he’s gone. He’d like some institution or other to take them, and display a few or all of them. But he made them for the sheer joy of it. He isn’t worried about the money value of his work or its significance to posterity.
Of course we’re not all like Mr. Oretsky. Some of us are impoverished and would deeply appreciate some “gelt” for our clocks. Others of us are driven and would dearly love some assurance that our work will mean something to someone else, if not today, then later. We’re as various as our younger counterparts. But we have all come to this peculiar place in our growing old, where we have time when most of the folks who went before us didn’t.
We’re in a hiatus, and we can make of it what we will.