I was perusing and pondering the latest issue of the AARP magazine last night when I stumbled across an interesting article about Jamie Lee Curtis.

As Jamie so succinctly stated, “No one gets out of life alive.” It’s obviously hard to argue with logic like this. But it was the next bit that really made me sit up and think. While reflecting that time was no longer on her side, she said, “Get out a tape measure, look at what age your parents died, look at what age you are. It’s not long. Laugh about it a little. And then shut up and do something!”

I just picked up a tape measure, ambled over into the board room, laid it out on the table, and asked my chum Bob (a palindrome in his own lunchtime) to snap a quick picture.

It’s scary when you project your life onto a tape measure (Click image to see a larger version — Image source: Max Maxfield)

Looking at this picture now, I see that perspective has stretched things out on the left-hand-side and scrunched things up on the right. As a result, the distance (time) from when I was born to my 21st birthday looks close to the distance (time) from my 21st birthday to the present day, where I’m currently basking in the glow of being 64. I did wonder about taking another picture “the other way round,” as it were, but then I decided to leave things “as is” because this perspective sort of reflects the way in which time seems to pass faster the older you get.

I just had a quick Google (I’ll recover in a moment). I started off by looking for the current average life expectancy in the USA, which turns out to be 77.8 years. Since I recently turned a sprightly 64, this wasn’t quite as robust a number as I was hoping for, and then things took a turn for the worse. It turns out that 77.8 years is the combined average for men and women — the current average for people of the male persuasion (of which I am a card-carrying member) is only 75.1 (can you spell “Eeek”?), while females can hope for 80.5.

Next, I realized that these were 2020 numbers. It seems that both males and females lost around a year when compared to 2019 as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Happily, I remembered that I’m forged from tried and trusted English stock, so I took a look at the 2020 figures from the UK, which show an average life expectancy of 80.7 years, with 78.7 years for males and 82.7 years for females. Ha! That’s an extra three years for English males as compared to our American cousins right there.

But then I started to wonder if all of the numbers I was seeing related only to people born today. So, I donned my Google glasses and took another dive into the data domain to discover this USA table, which shows the average life expectancy for an American male in 1957 (which is the year I decided to grace this planet with my presence) was only 66.4 years. An equivalent UK table shows a combined average life expectancy of 70.37 years in 1957. If we subtract 3.15 years (a value whose origin I don’t have sufficient time or energy to explain), we get a male life expectancy of 67.22 years.

But now I’m confused. What do all these numbers mean? Let’s take the 1957 entry in the first table, for example. Does this mean that males born in 1957 have a life expectancy of 66.4 years, or does in mean that when they looked at all the American men who died in 1957, their average age was 66.4 years?

I must admit that I would be somewhat worried by these numbers were it not for two things. First, these are average numbers, which means that some folks will get a smaller piece of the pie while others will keep on happily trucking along (obviously I plan on trucking with the best of them). Second, I have my trusty Countdown Timer, whose task it is to display the years (YY), months (MM), days (DD), hours (HH), minutes (MM), and seconds (SS) to my 100th birthday.

The point is that I have never heard of anyone who has such a Countdown Timer who has failed to pass the 100-year finishing post to enjoy the timer’s audio and visual effects and join in the celebrations. Of course, it’s also fair to say that I’ve never actually known anyone other than myself who has such a Countdown Timer in the first place, but this in no way invalidates my argument.

What say you? Can you cast light on the numbers presented above? What are the values for your country of birth and/or the country in which you currently hang your hat? And, of particular interest to me, what are your thoughts regarding Jamie’s tape measure representation of one’s life?