Is It Worth Living to 100?

I’ve always said that I want to live to be at least 100.

There’s no particular reason why, it just seems like a nice round number and perhaps confirmation of healthy living.

I’ve always viewed running out of money as my biggest worry if I were to live to 100, but after reading an article in today’s Wall Street Journal that may no longer be the case. Apparently, there are lots of things to worry about if I live that long:

  • People who reach the age of 100 often outlive their loved ones and are in failing health
  • Those who aspire to be 100 change their minds after visiting a long-lived friend in a memory-care unit
  • from a 108-year old: every year gets a little harder for me to get around. I have no pain. It’s just that I’m old and it’s hard to walk
  • one woman fractured her spine at 104 and now uses a wheelchair, which she doesn’t like.

In other words, the story did not paint too rosy a picture of living to 100. On the other hand, the article did point out a few benefits of living to be 100:

  • seeing great-great-grandchildren
  • witnessing medical or technological breakthroughs
  • one woman who just turned 100 in January celebrated the milestone with six parties, worked with the Greater Cleveland Volunteers and Red Hat Society, visiting people in a nursing home and calling the elderly on their birthdays.
  • “Living this long is a way of having a lot of wonderful memories.”
  • one person has found that many of those who live to be 100 are able to handle stress well, are more optimistic, extroverted, conscientious, and agreeable.

And I just always assumed that everyone wanted to try and make to 100, but a 2018 Harris Poll, conducted on behalf of the University of Phoenix, found that 59% of American adults say living to 100 has too many risks to be worthwhile. So I’m actually in the minority on this issue.

As one extreme example of someone who has no interest in living to 100, take the case of Ezekiel Emanuel, a 61-year-old oncologist, bioethicist and vice provost at the University of Pennsylvania. He will be satisfied to reach 75. By then, he believes, he will have made his most important contributions, seen his kids grown, and his grandkids born. After his 75th birthday, he won’t get flu shots, take antibiotics, get screened for cancer or undergo stress tests. If he lives longer, that’s fine, he says. He just won’t take extra medical steps to prolong life.

Compare this with Google’s futurist, Ray Kurzweil. Ray wants to live forever. He thinks taking 100 pills a day can help him. The 67-year-old Kurzweil gulps supplements by the handful for “heart health, eye health, sexual health, and brain health.”

There’s probably a happy medium in there somewhere, between these two extremes.

In the meantime, I have thought of some reasons why I might want to live to be 100:

  • I might finally learn how to play the guitar
  • one of my blog posts might get 1,000,000 views (not this one, obviously) within six hours of posting it
  • maybe I’ll have a shot at some world record in swimming
  • I’ll probably know how to cut a tomato by then
  • And perhaps best of all, just imagine all the books I could read.

Maybe I’ll have to ask Mr. Kurzweil what pills he takes…

*image from



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