Why are we living so long?

2016-06-30 10:22

Modern medicine is making it possible – by why? Darwin would be scratching his head in puzzlement. In terms of our survival as a species it doesn’t add up. Why as a species are the numbers of the old and frail increasing so dramatically. Why is it, that modern medicine has developed this ability to prolong life at this time in the evolution of the planet? What is our evolutionary value?

The Elders in aboriginal society carried the knowledge and the history of the tribe. In our modern tribe, our history changes faster than our future and our knowledge is being carried by our computers and our cell phones. Google is our new “high priest”.

So, why are we living so long a life?

Man’s history on Earth has been a story of conquest, subjection and devastation. We are the only species with the power and the technology to literally change the world – and we don’t seem to learn from our mistakes. We allow ourselves to repeat our history - and we didn’t live long enough to see it happening over and over again.

Yes we could read about it in books and newspapers, but the old media is “choosy” and opinion is carried by a body of experienced journalists and publishers whose opinion also has to reflect the position of their employer.

However, the new social media is open to all. But the voices are mostly of the young and their opinion is ruled by their passion. It is essential that the elderly voice their stories – and their opinion will be ruled by their experience.

Perhaps we are living so long because that extra time allows us to contemplate the world - where we are going and how we got to where we are. We have been the architects of the world as it now exists. We harnessed the power of science and technology and created a rabid dog that gobbles us up and spits us out. We bow before the mighty dollar, pound, euro and yuan and measure ourselves by the quantity of wealth we accumulate. Is that what we really wanted – or intended?

It is only as we step out of the “rat race” that we are able to contemplate the nature of our being, of what it means to be human and how we express our humanity. So, an essential task of the elderly is to tell our story and to make amends. To make amends for our mistakes, for when we lost our way, for when we subverted our humanity for our greed. Our job in old age is to have learned from those mistakes and to caution subsequent generations from making the same mistakes.

Herein lies the evolutionary advantage of this growing body of the elderly. Too much unbridled passion has created chaos – too much painful experience has created inertia and stupor. The combination of passion and experience will start to create different stories which in turn, will create a different future.

And we can’t do that if we hide away in retirement villages, gated estates and ivory towers. We have to be out in the world questioning, challenging, protesting and changing “the way things are”. We cannot abdicate our responsibility for creating a better world for all.

Alan Maguire is a Retirement Coach and author of The Elders Journey - a road-map to creating a retirement of value and purpose. He can be contacted at alan@theeldersjourney.com

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