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.
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?
I just heard from my chum Richard Leach who said: “Hey Max, don’t look at average age, but consider mode age at death which is 89 (it is the most common age at death).” I just had another Google (I’m going to wear myself out if I’m not careful) to discover the following definitions:
Mean life expectancy = the average age at death.
Median life expectancy = the age which 50% of people will die prior to reaching, and which 50% of people will live past.
Mode life expectancy = the most common age at death.
The Social Security administration has a life expectancy calculator based on your current age and gender.
Once again this is an average and doesn’t take into account heredity and other factors..
This one is very interesting — not least that they ask for the year, month, and day you were born (asking for the day gives the impression they can really tie things down accurately).
I’m starting to feel a little guilty because I’m planning on living to be well over 100, so does that mean someone else gets the short end of the
sticktape measure? 🙂
What if our clocks started each day at 24:00 and counted down to 0:01 at “midnight”. How would that impact our view of time in each day? I think it would be significant.
Maybe in the future, when humans control how long each person lives, we would have personal watches that count down to the moment we die. Yikes!
Shades of “Logan’s Run”
Also shades of “Pebble in the Sky” by Isaac Asimov
I am thinking of setting my watch to a timer so each day starts with 24:00. But since I am retired, it probably wouldn’t matter as much as someone who is still working, not to mention all the meetings that person would miss. Crap, gotta go, have a 10:00 appointment at the auto service garage…
“But since I am retired…” You just have to keep on rubbing that in, don’t you LOL I’m just happy you manage to take time from the golf course to read my blogs 🙂
As long as my fingers still work, I will play golf and type – assuming my memory stays with me. I will say that the best course I took in high school was learning how to touch-type on an IBM Selectric typewriter. My wife (Louise the Lovely) says it sounds like a waterfall when I am typing on my left-handed A4 Tech keyboard. This way the number keypad is on the left and my mouse is very close on the right side of the keyboard. OMG, I am just rambling on – that happens to those of us who are retired. BTW, did I ever tell you that I am retired?
“Did I ever tell you that I am retired?”
I think you may have mentioned it in passing 🙂
I think the tape measure idea has problems, especially if you are older than the age your parents(s) died at. My brother-in-law’s father died when he was in his early 50s. As my brother-in-law approached that age and then went through it, he was like a zombie, not knowing if he was going to drop dead at any time. Fortunately he’s now in his late 60s, is happily RETIRED and has developed a new lease on life.
So your brother-in-law was a zombie but now he’s going through a new lease of life? You should be writing these blogs, not me LOL
You should be writing these blogs,
I’ve RETIRED as well!
Pretty soon I’ll be the only person I know (out of the people I know) who is still working (I have a mortgage until I’m 75 — sob, sob)
Max, according to your scientific analysis, how many years do I have left to live? I was born in the USA in 1949, grew up eating frosted flakes, only smoked one puff of a cigarette, and loved watching baseball until I matured and got hooked on the NFL. I want to set my countdown clock accurately.
See my first comment above — apparently the mode age at death (the most common age that people currenntly die) is 89 — but I’m sure this can be given a finer resolution based on your age and the fact you ate frosted flakes (they are GREAT!) — but remember that there lots of people who live far longer than this — that’s what I keep telling myself 🙂
I really like the “mode” assessment versus the “median” method which I have always felt was BS (if I can be so crude on this blog).
Bothersome and Silly?
If I look at the mode numbers for my bothersome and silly responses, I would have to agree.
Is your wife making you say that? LOL
You mean Louise the Lovely? No, she has trained me well enough that I can do it myself.
It took years of patient effort, but she hung in there 🙂