GUEST POST from Don: The Dying Generation

I am so excited to share this post, I have known Don for quite a while and he has always been a great communicator! I have learned much from him and also gained a whole lot of food for thought. As he is someone I respect highly, being able to share some of his posts here is a delight and an honor!

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My wife’s childhood friend died suddenly.  She was overwhelmed with grief.  It made me ask the question:  When did I join the dying generation?

We all know about the Death Clock which predicts your lifespan based on a few questions.  I doubt it is accurate.  How can it be?

The Social Security Administration has a death chart, of sorts.  From that chart I discovered that if you are male (information for a female is also there) you are 6x more likely to die in your first year of life than your 20th.  You are also 2.5x more likely to die at 40 and 11x more likely at 60 than at 20.  You are twice as likely to die at 70 as 60.  More than half of American males are dead by age 81.  Yet it is around age 60 that greater than 1% are dying every year.  It is no longer unexpected.  

Stunningly, there is a twist (also found at Social Security website) …if you live to age 60 your probability of reaching 80 improves because 14.5% of your compatriots have found an earlier exit, leaving the stronger 85.5% to carry on.  Those who died early are depressing the life expectancy statistics.  So, just 2 years later, if you survive, you have nearly a 70% probability of reaching 80, even though half of those who were born in the year you were will not achieve that goal.  Sounds strange, but it is important when planning when you should take your Social Security benefits.

No one seems to want to claim to be part of “The Dying Generation” but it is clear that many younger adults consider that entrance to be at retirement or 60, whichever comes first.  It is a bias perhaps based on the false belief that a person’s worth is related to financial productivity.

Truth be told, death can happen at any moment.  According to the World Health Organization, 74% of global deaths are caused by non-communicable diseases, like stroke or heart attack.  The statistics hold up fairly closely for the United States as well.  You would not know that by watching TV crime shows or listening to politicians; you would think that most people die with a bullet in them.  Actually, murder is a fairly rare way to die (less than 1% die by homicide and far fewer with a bullet in them).  Strangely, in the United States, about 60% of all murders happen in just 5 counties and are committed mostly by those who reside in those counties.  Stay out of those counties and your risk of being murdered, or being a murderer, is only 40% of the national average.  That’s comforting!

The Movie “Grumpy Old Men” with Jack Lemmon, Walter Matteau and Ann Margaret may have had it right.  Seems that the goal of every member of the “Dying Generation” is to “go in his or her sleep.”  No one wants a slow or lingering death.  Yet, when we join the “Generation” it is clear that death is no longer unexpected.  That is why we older folk write wills and leave funeral instructions.  Some even pick out a casket or write an obituary.  Even so, it surprises us that we have arrived at the end of life.  How can that be?  We think of retirement as a graduation of sorts…it isn’t.  It is a demotion, a de-graduation, a downward slope.  We may be able to do some things to slow it or reduce the emotional pain of seeing the tunnel at the end of the light, but we cannot do anything to avoid it.  And this!  This is what we worked for 45 years to achieve?

So, is there hope?  Yes.

While we live, hope and regret live in us.  The regrets will matter none at all when the end comes.  Hope matters always.  I will not care on my deathbed that I never trekked to Machu Picchu.  Instead, I will wish that those whom I have always loved will hold my hand one last time.  Then, as always, that loving gesture will grant me the greatest peace.  

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Don has been a successful business owner.  He was educated in a field totally unrelated to his business.  Now, retired, he has returned to the workforce for fun.  Obviously, he still has too much time on his hands.

2 thoughts on “GUEST POST from Don: The Dying Generation

  1. I am enjoying Don’s posts. A side of him I hadn’t known until now. Keep up the postings, Don.

    1. I agree. My favorites are Don’s “slice of life” type posts. He has quite a talent for writing, I can almost see the scenes as he describes them; put that talent together with the unique way that he sees the world and it’s quite an experience to read what he writes!

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