Is there a benefit to living long if your brain functions fine, but your body’s all used up? What if your body is still usable, but your mind has ceased to work? Those are some questions Susan Jacoby asks in this NY Times article . Here are some excerpts to think about…while your mind is still able to perform. Personally I think of these choices as high class problems…at least you have lived lots of years and hopefully enjoyed many many pleasures
…Yet people my age (she’s 65) and younger still pretend that old age will yield to what has long been our generational credo — that we can transform ourselves endlessly, even undo reality, if only we live right. “Age-defying” is a modifier that figures prominently in advertisements for everything from vitamins and beauty products to services for the most frail among the “old old,” as demographers classify those over 85.
…Members of the “forever young” generation…prefer to think about aging as a controllable experience.
…Furthermore, I am acutely aware — and this is the difference between hope and expectation — that my plans depend, above all, on whether I am lucky enough to retain a working brain.
…Contrary to what the baby boom generation prefers to believe, there is almost no scientifically reliable evidence that “living right” — whether that means exercising, eating a nutritious diet or continuing to work hard — significantly delays or prevents Alzheimer’s.
…Good health habits and strenuous intellectual effort are beneficial in themselves, but they will not protect us from a silent, genetically influenced disaster that might already be unfolding in our brains. I do not have the slightest interest in those new brain scans or spinal fluid tests that can identify early-stage Alzheimer’s. What is the point of knowing that you’re doomed if there is no effective treatment or cure?
…I would rather share the fate of my maternal forebears — old old age with an intact mind in a ravaged body — than the fate of my other grandmother (who died of Alzheimer’s). But the cosmos is indifferent to my preferences, and it is chilling to think about becoming helpless in a society that affords only the most minimal support for those who can no longer care for themselves. So I must plan, as best I can, for the unthinkable.