Can one really "live long AND prosper," as Spock said? He lived to be 161! (Photo/CBS)
Can one really "live long AND prosper," as Spock said? He lived to be 161! (Photo/CBS)

On a good day, living to 100 sounds wonderful. On a bad day — don’t ask

Does the thought of a super long life thrill you or chill you?

Once upon a time, the idea of living to be 100 was extraordinary. Now, while hardly commonplace, it’s certainly more common and the ranks of hardy centenarians will only continue to grow as healthcare advances continue.

There were nearly 600,000 centenarians worldwide in 2022, according to a United Nations estimate. By 2050, that number is expected to jump to 3.7 million.

I’m of two minds about living to such a ripe old age.

On a good day, it thrills me. The prospect of more adventures, more time with family, more time to read. These are appealing notions.

On a day when my knees and back ache, I dunno. And I’m still in my 60s.

The question of longevity came into sharp focus recently when my husband and I sat down with our financial adviser for a long-postponed estate-planning session.

It began with the question of how long we expect to live. My husband said 90 years. I said 100, as I thought of the recently departed diplomat Henry Kissinger and actress Glynis Johns who both made it to the century mark.

We split the difference and landed on 95. It sounded wild. It sounded ridiculous. Yet, who knows?

I started to say, “Well, of course, that’s the best-case scenario.” But the financial planner interrupted before I could finish the thought.

One day, we could all outlive Methuselah, who, according to Genesis, lived to a ripe old age of 969.

“Actually, from a monetary standpoint, a shorter lifespan is the better-case scenario. It gives you more money to spend and leaves more money for your heirs.”

Well, huh! So much for Mr. Spock’s “Live long and prosper.” Apparently from an economic perspective, we all should live short to prosper.

Even as I ponder our fiscal finale, I’ve found a new wrinkle — pardon the pun — to consider regarding longevity. I recently read about the possibility of a medication now under development that might extend the lifespan of dogs.

It immediately made me think about the possibilities for humans. Who knows? One day we could all outlive Methuselah, who, according to Genesis, lived to a ripe old age of 969.

But in a world with serious troubles — homelessness, poverty, political divisions — is searching for a fountain of youth the best way to invest our resources? Is longevity the only benchmark we want our children to measure us by?

Do we want them to eulogize us by simply noting, “Yep, our parents sure lived to ripe old ages”? Or do we want them proudly to proclaim, “Our parents devoted themselves to building a shenere un besere velt, a more beautiful and better world”?

For me, the answer is clear. I bet it is for you, too.

Despite my worries about how long I might last, I know I will live the days I do have left in the same way I have always lived them: joyfully and doing the best I can for myself, my family and for others — just as my parents and my traditions have taught me.

Yes, in the end, it isn’t a question of how many years you live but how well you spend them and how much good you can do along the way.

Still, I do wonder about that doggie life-extension medication. If it’s good enough for a canine, could it be good enough for me? How else will I ever whittle down that massive pile of books on my nightstand?

Karen Galatz
Karen Galatz

Karen Galatz is an award-winning journalist who loves to make women and men "of a certain age" laugh, think and feel. In addition to The Matzo Chronicles, Karen is the author of Muddling through Middle Age, a weekly humor blog. She can be reached at [email protected].