'Who wants to live forever?'
Those words are, if my quinguaginarian brain remembers correctly, lyrics from a song by Queen. For readers who have the pleasure of being under thirty, it probably seems that you are going to live forever. However, for those of us who are middle-aged or beyond, reality sooner or later sinks in; the truth is we have used half of our innings.
Or have we?
Consider your reaction to being told, at the age of fifty, that you have seventy years to go. You would probably greet such news with scepticism. After all, doesn't the Bible speak of 'three score years and ten' being man's allotted time? Well, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) would beg to differ. In a recent report, the ONS says Britain will have some 90,000 people over the age of 100 by the year 2034. Already, we know that there are several people living at the age of 115, and the oldest life on record is that of a French woman who died at the age of 122 in 1997.
Now, let me put that into perspective. The year 2034 is only 23 years away, and 90,000 people is approximately 60% of the population of North Lincolnshire. At least some of us fifty year olds may therefore not have reached middle age yet.
There is, of course, much in the way of current national discussion regarding what the retirement age should be (or whether we should have one at all), and whether the country can afford everyone's pensions. However, I would like to offer another thought for you to consider. If you were told today that you have a pretty good chance of becoming a supercentenarian, what would you want to do with all that extra time? How would you wish to enrich your added years with activity rather than be restricted by illness or infirmity?
I cannot answer the first question for you. However, in respect to the second, now is the time to start preparing by getting those lifestyle excesses sorted out (you know the ones; you don't need me to spell them out for you). For my part, I have so many interests to pursue that I am setting my sights on reaching at least 120. You are therefore cordially invited to my birthday party in 2080 (but do bring a cutting from this newspaper to prove eligibility).
(This article was first published in the Scunthorpe Telegraph, 20th October 2010)