Home > Life in General > Time’s up for ageing alarmists

Time’s up for ageing alarmists

October 10th, 2016

That’s the (slightly ambiguous) headline for my latest piece in Inside Story. The central argument will be familiar to readers here. While the term “ageing population” is presented as a reason for gloom, this is a fallacy of composition. What’s actually happening is that, as individuals of any age, we are less likely to die than we use to be. Since dying is usually preceded by sickness and disability, it’s also true that, as individuals of any age, we are less likely to be sick and disabled. This is 100 per cent good news.

After publishing this I was pointed to an interesting article, maybe in the LA Times, which I didn’t note down, something like “a new view of aging”. If anyone else has seen it, maybe they could post a link. Also, there was a piece in Nature claiming 115 as an upper limit to the human lifespan. I think the conclusion is right, but the supporting analysis looked pretty dodgy to me, essentially based on two data points: namely that the longest lived and second longest lived people known to us both died in the 1990s and no one has matched them since. Still, at least Joe Hockey will be happy.

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  1. jrkrideau
    October 10th, 2016 at 22:03 | #1

    I really should read that Nature piece but I’m still annoyed at the first sentence that does not seem to know the difference between life expectancy and longevity.

    However, on general principles, I doubt the conclusion. Who, back in the 1890s, advised young scientists not to go into physics as all the real work had been done? Maybe Rutherford? I am pretty sure that I remember reading solemn pronouncements that “heavier than air ” flight was impossible, that one could not build intercontinental missiles, and famous statement that four or five computers would be all world would need.

    The authors may well be correct but I doubt it as long as climate change does not destroy our biological and medical research capacities.

  2. GrueBleen
    October 11th, 2016 at 02:45 | #2

    @jrkrideau
    Your #1

    Not Rutherford, jrk, but most often attributed to Lord Kelvin – though erroneously as usual and in reality the closest approximation to that sentiment was apparently a statement by Albert A. Michelson, who in 1894 said: “… it seems probable that most of the grand underlying principles have been firmly established …” (or words to that effect – then came Relativity and Quantum, or as that other old saying has it: “never speak too soon”).

    Of course, there’s also the (in)famous “everything has already been invented” attributed back then to the USA Patent Office’s R Holland Duell – also erroneously. The nearest to that was apparently Henry Ellsworth who in 1843 stated: “The advancement of the arts, from year to year, taxes our credulity and seems to presage the arrival of that period when human improvement must end.”

    Both Duell and Ellsworth held (at different times) the office of United States Commissioner of Patents.

    Now for our next exercise, did William Tecumseh Sherman ever actually say “war is hell” ? 🙂

  3. October 11th, 2016 at 03:00 | #3

    Ageing alarmists view the world through a filter where people have no use unless they are performing paid work and the higher the pay, the greater the value. This is bizarre in a world where most of the economic value in society comes from our collective experience and knowledge and not from human labour. It is even more bizarre when we know that once we satisfy our basic needs the things we value most have no economic value.

    Our society suffers from a compulsive disorder. Perhaps if we treated the disorder, we would get less nonsense cluttering up our lives. Pointing out its absurdity only seems to make the disorder worse.

  4. Brian Hanley
    October 11th, 2016 at 05:44 | #4

    I don’t see ageing itself as the problem. It’s ageing demographics combined with ceasing to work. Biologically, my view is that ceasing to work is rooted in degrees of physical infirmity that make working difficult to the point that people are unable or unwilling.

    Regarding the upper age limit, I think that Nature paper is silly. (Although I think their methodology is reasonable.) There are various ways in mice to get an average of 120% of normal life span, and similarly raise the maximum. Some of those result in mice that appear strong and active like young mice right up to the end. It’s rather easy to get extensions to 107% or so. One of my favorite papers shows that mice irradiated continuously with gamma rays at a dose rate of 6 Sievert per year (120X the single-year limit for nuclear workers) show that life extension.

    That said, since literature shows that the most well studied compounds for life extension, Metformin (and analogs) shows results from nearly zero to over 120% of normal life span. (Note: When I write 120%, I mean an addition 20% added to normal lifespan.) And, the most consistent and longest life extension results (145%) are from dietary restriction at just the right near starvation level. And simple thinks like cage enrichment have significant life-extension effects. What that means is that secondary factors can potentially be used by those wanting to goose the results of their compound by tweaking diet and exercise and toys. (Yes, I am sure this has been done. Competition for grant money is more than intense enough for that.)

    Unfortunately for those wanting to starve themselves into longevity, the level of underfeeding require makes it impossible to house the mice together as is usually done. Mice underfed that much will attack and eat each other. Plus, getting it just right requires a scientifically prepared diet. The mice aren’t malnourished for anything critical. A human being isn’t likely to go for a lifetime diet of kibble.

    For humans, the best thing to do is exercise a lot because it turns on many of the same pathways. It ramps up heat-shock proteins (which aren’t just produced from heat shock, they are produced from all sorts of stressors). HSP’s make proteins fold better, which lowers the amount of waste effort by cells, and makes them operate better. It ramps up sirtuins and appears to increase expression of telomerase which keeps the cells operating as if they were younger.

    The point being, that approached right, there are things we can do, and will be able to do, to make what are now the elderly into strong and capable citizens contributing to the economy something besides demand.

  5. October 11th, 2016 at 05:45 | #5

    Old bohemian line goes something like “Every day above the ground is a great day – JQ

    This one in LA Times got a good run in blogosphere commentariats in US and Europe
    The aging paradox: The older we get, the happier we are …
    http://touch.latimes.com/#section/-1/article/p2p-88319163/

    Coda:
    Baby boomers, are you fit for everyday life?
    http://www.ajc.com/lifestyles/fitness/baby-boomers-are-you-fit-for-everyday-life/oit7cHnxgMsYPgxjuvqJFJ/

    http://news.uindy.edu/2016/10/10/rethinking-aging-dr-bill-thomas-brings-age-of-disruption-tour-to-uindy/

    Can People Live to 150? Probably Not, New Study Finds
    http://www.nbcnews.com/health/health-news/can-people-live-150-probably-not-new-study-finds-n660431

  6. Brian Hanley
    October 11th, 2016 at 05:47 | #6

    @Brian Hanley
    PS – No, I don’t recommend people get a gamma-ray device and sleep under it. But there is plenty of literature that indicates that radiation concerns are vastly overstated to the general public.

  7. conrad
    October 11th, 2016 at 06:36 | #7

    Some of your claims are overly rosy. Things like dry macular degeneration, for example, are not necessarily easy to treat, and once you get old your vision will go down hill in other ways (for example, contrast sensitivity) and your hearing begins to decline even by about 30. The rate of people being overweight and obese is also at an all time high. It’s hard to imagine that a large proportion of the population people being over weight for decades is not going to strain the medical system — and analogies with cars and hips is probably very good — no-one pays for other people’s cars and I imagine things like elective surgery will become harder to get as health costs increase and no-one wants to pay for them.

  8. Ikonoclast
    October 11th, 2016 at 06:40 | #8

    People are only of value if they have a use. I mean a use to themselves and others. If one can fulfill no use then one’s life is of no value. I imagine I will draw a flame-storm for making this observation. It is however an unsentimental and realistic stance. By “use”, I do not limit matters to “economic use”. Indeed a recreational or artistic use of one’s capabilities is a perfectly valid use conferring meaning and value to one’s human existence. Also realistic is the fact that one will not be valued by others if one is of no use to others. Thus, keeping aged people physically and mentally spry is a good thing. That way they remain of use to themselves and others. Conversely, if a person was genuinely strong, he or she would recognize the imminence of becoming useless to self and others, or becoming of greater cost (not just economic or financial costs) than use to others. Such a person would then clear-sightedly find a clean exit. When such a time comes I would hope I could do that. I doubt it though. Few seem capable of such clarity and courage.

  9. Moz Keeps At It
    October 11th, 2016 at 06:55 | #9

    Ikonoclast :
    People are only of value if they have a use. I mean a use to themselves and others.

    I dunno, the point comes up regularly in one form or another whenever there’s a euthanasia debate. Unfortunately the external judgementalism, especially from the Ayn Rand and Homo Economicus types, makes it difficult for the “worthless” not to hear it as an attack on them. Yet another attack.

    I think a lot of people would agree with something like “when I want to die I should be allowed to, and if I don’t want to die I shouldn’t be made to”.

    It’s just that the context in which the statement is made is often someone rich and powerful talking to someone in poverty, to whom “we can make you life so miserable you will beg to be allowed to die” is a statement of the bleeding obvious. So the fight is over that unspoken subtext – euthanasia would be much more popular if we had a social safety net.

    To someone who has to fight every day just to be recognised as human by people with huge power over their lives, and regularly fails to do so, the question “wouldn’t you rather be dead?” is not neutral, it’s making explicit an attitude they face regularly. That’s close to the end of the spectrum that starts with “oh, the poor thing” (referring to a human being with a disability, not a wilted pot plant).

  10. October 11th, 2016 at 07:09 | #10

    I had a little fun on my group blog a few years ago on the health of European royalty. They keep working to an advanced age, even their nineties. It’s nice work, with top-rate assistants, but it is work: days are filled with appointments for which they must show up on time and very presentable, and make unfailingly civil conversation to everyone from shy toddlers to homicidal dictators. I argued that though they enjoy the best possible medical care, it does not look expensive on a whole-life basis, and would be worth a proper study. The same optimistic signal applies to healthy aging.

  11. Julie Thomas
    October 11th, 2016 at 07:14 | #11

    “Also realistic is the fact that one will not be valued by others if one is of no use to others.”

    When people are interacting face to face, it is difficult to devalue any person as being of no use to others.

    If one lives by the code, from each according to their ability to each according to their needs, it is easy to see that these unvalued people are the neediest and that if you judge yourself to be more valuable then as a superior individual there is an obligation to give what one has to give.

    “Unfortunately the external judgementalism, especially from the Ayn Rand and Homo Economicus types, makes it difficult for the “worthless” not to hear it as an attack on them. Yet another attack.”

    Yes yes yes it was a constant refrain in my brain pre the validation that came from doing well at Uni, that I was just a tax hoovering failure and if I couldn’t make the right choices I didn’t deserve any support from my society, my genes must be bad ones and by the rules of survival of the fittest I should die out and let the better people flourish. I’m

  12. Salient Green
    October 11th, 2016 at 08:20 | #12

    I’ve just spent an interesting 15 mins getting my head around the used to/use to words thanks to JQ’s “What’s actually happening is that, as individuals of any age, we are less likely to die than we use to be.”
    Apparently, when dealing with the past, ‘used to’ must be used unless the past is identified with a ‘didn’t’ or a ‘did’ and then ‘use to’ is used.
    Thanks for the education John but sorry for correcting you.

  13. Greg McKenzie
    October 11th, 2016 at 08:47 | #13

    I am reminded of the saying that the slowest way to die is by maintaining good health.
    As an economist I recognize only two absolute truths:
    1. You will pay taxes in one form or another: and
    2. You will die.
    Having got the absolutes out of the way, I see everything else as relative to
    personal circumstances. For example, the very rich can pay for any possible
    extension of their physical existence. The poor have to cop what their genes,
    charitable medical facilities and governments provide. Why do rich countries,
    ceteris paribus, have longer life expectancy rates?
    The economic issue here is not lower death rates, but lifestyle sustainability.
    Once retired, an economic unit gets poorer every week, unless they have
    invested wealth. For some poorer retirees, their life is spent in retirement
    homes and they have legal guardians. The quality of life they have, now depends
    on the goodwill of others. Simply put, they have lost their economic independence.
    How much retirement assets are needed to give anyone an acceptable (to them)
    standard of living? Some suggest enough to equal seven times final salary. The
    argument goes that people adjust upwards to any improved living standard,
    but find it very difficult to adjust downwards at retirement.
    Longer life expectancy might impress some younger individuals, but it’s lifestyle
    that matters most when you get old and dependent on others for your future
    health.

    s

  14. Apolcalypse
    October 11th, 2016 at 09:09 | #14

    @Greg McKenzie

    the very rich can pay for any possible extension of their physical existence.

    Or they might choose to treat their cancer with meditation and camomile tea, and die young anyway: Steve Jobs.

  15. Ikonoclast
    October 11th, 2016 at 11:40 | #15

    Perhaps I should have used a different term and added a few caveats. Able-minded, able-bodied people should endeavor to be of service to other people. “Service” might be a better way to put it rather than “use”. In earlier English usage, maybe circa 1600-1800, to be “of use to others” had a good not a pejorative meaning and did not necessarily imply others were using you. Though given the class structures of the time it often did mean that in practice.

    To be of service would still be a communal value in classless society, even more so in fact. Communal societies, where there is a lot of work to be done, generally have no long term place for able free-riders. Modern over-production has changed this picture but we cannot assume the unlimited cornucopia economy will be able to persist indefinitely.

    Of course, the biggest free riders in our current economic system are the rich, the big capitalists, the rentiers, the oligarchs and the high level CEOs and managers and their families and assorted hangers-on. This top level, free-rider class provides nothing and produces nothing.

  16. Julie Thomas
    October 11th, 2016 at 12:25 | #16

    @Ikonoclast

    I don’t think you need to change any terms. You are saying that able-minded able bodied people should endeavour to be of service to other people and I agree with this.

    That is the meaning of “from each according to their ability”. That is the way that one can “give according to your ability”.

    The idea of free riders is hilarious considering that the most egregious example of free-riding is a new born baby who takes everything and gives nothing back.

  17. Moz Keeps At It
    October 11th, 2016 at 13:32 | #17

    @Ikonoclast
    I wasn’t taking issue with the terms, more pointing out that it’s impossible to use terminology to address the underlying issue. Much as euphemisms often become tainted by association, and yesterdays euphemism becomes today’s unspeakable word.

    The whole idea of “service” has become denigrated, even in contexts where you would expect the hard right to valorise it (perhaps most remarkably in Trump’s denigration of a dead US soldier, but also the ‘shit happens’ incident here, and the invidious position our military has been placed in wrt the “intervention”, the concentration camps and the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq).

    I also link this to the denigration of caring professions, and the way the traditional disdain for the low end of those professions has moved dramatically upwards – professors are increasingly just “teachers with pretensions” and doctors merely jumped-up nurses with an effective union (I had to replace “good” there with “effective”, since we all know there’s no such thing as a good union).

  18. paul walter
    October 11th, 2016 at 13:41 | #18

    The older generation wasnt put out to’pasture because it was past its use by date, but because it was capable of an independent level of thought and action that unnerved authoritarians.

  19. GrueBleen
    October 11th, 2016 at 14:24 | #19

    @Julie Thomas
    Your #16

    “…able-minded able bodied people should endeavour to be of service to other people”

    Quite right ! And therefore I expect every other human being on this planet who possesses an able mind and an able body to be of service – to the maximum of their ability of course – to me !

    Since very clearly – at least according to some – I am definitely not “able-minded” and only passing (mostly), “able bodied”.

    So get to it folks: be of service to me !

  20. Ratee
    October 11th, 2016 at 14:28 | #20

    ” Two implications flow from this. First, young people must spend more time in education to acquire the skills needed for a technologically advanced economy. While dependency ratios are calculated on the assumption that working life begins at fifteen, the reality is that high school completion is the norm, and that a majority of young people acquire post-school qualifications of some kind. ”
    As the ‘norms” of society change we (Australia) retreat from funding a new-normal education and act to penalise those who will be the potentially most productive generation in history.

  21. October 11th, 2016 at 15:26 | #21

    Carl Zimmer wrote on aging in the New York Times here:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/06/science/maximum-life-span-study.html

    But while it is always nice to have someone check these things, there is nothing new here. Basically it is confirmation of the idea that as people get older their ability to stay alive gets worse until they are unable to stay alive any longer and they die.

    While it is possible that what we were seeing with all these old people dying was just bad luck, the study makes it pretty clear that living to 200 is not just a matter of beating the odds and dodging maladies until your birthday cake counts as a major fire hazard.

    But what the article doesn’t mention is that it is probably easy to extend human maximum lifespan by at least several decades through selective breeding programs. All we’d need to do is have God Emperor Trump ban everyone under 50 from reproducing. Then, as the population builds up again and exceeds the minimum that is required to work in the sugar mines or build statues of the God Emperor, the reproductive age could be gradually bumped up higher.

    After all, if it works on rats, it should work on humans. Mind you, rats hit a wall where it becomes exceedingly difficult to boost their maximum age and humans will hit this too, possibly much sooner as humans already are extremely long lived for mammals.

  22. October 11th, 2016 at 15:50 | #22

    Ed Yong of the Atlantic Monthly also wrote on the study about old people new worm food:

    http://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2016/10/humans-wont-ever-live-far-beyond-115-years/502967/

    I quote:

    “The ceiling is probably hardwired into our biology. As we grow older, we slowly accumulate damage to our DNA and other molecules, which turns the intricate machinery of our cells into a creaky, dysfunctional mess. In most cases, that decline leads to diseases of old age, like cancer, heart disease, or Alzheimer’s. But if people live past their 80s or 90s, their odds of getting such illnesses actually start to fall—perhaps because they have protective genes. Supercentenarians don’t tend to die of major diseases—Jeanne Calment died of natural causes—and many of them are physically independent even at the end of their lives. But they still die, “simply because too many of their bodily functions fail,” says Vijg. “They can no longer continue to live.””

    Clearly, this whole DNA business has gone on far too long. Oh, I suppose there will be people who are nostalgic about having cells and will want to keep it, but at the very least we could get rid of the shoddy business that is hanging around in nuclei at the moment and replace it with something a little more streamlined, and at least three copies and error checking machinery.

    Obviously this won’t be particularly easy to do in people who are still alive, but for future generations it may be done. Or generation, as the case may be.

  23. Donald Oats
    October 11th, 2016 at 16:51 | #23

    The strange thing about the ageing of the population—in the sense of being less likely to die at a given age than was the case 50, 100 years ago—is that employers are increasingly ageist and sack people who are “too old.” Too old is still around 50 to 55 years old, apart from perhaps the CEO and a few of his (nearly always a him) mates on the board; they get to be whatever age they like.

    The economic consequences of this ageism at a time of ageing population should be quite clear: a decline in earning potential in parallel with an increase in longevity is problematic.

    We also have widespread discrimination against people who are injured or ill. Even the welfare system (ironically) discriminates against injured or ill people. The various private operators who get paid for placement have little value in people that are a bit trickier to place. Given that as we age now, chronic illness and injury are better managed—if we can afford it—and so we are trapped in a cross-fire of ageing and infirmity, forcing people who would once have been middle-class for life into middle-age poverty and homelessness.

    This cannot be fixed by waiting for businesses *and* the government agencies—who are big discriminatory employers—to recognise and to patch it up. From their perspective, the easiest way to cut costs is to do a mass culling of the middle-aged workers, for they are the ones who have been promoted or incremented into a higher salary than the more junior staff. I’ve seen it for myself, so I know it goes on. The only force that can fix it is the government, and that requires some decent workplace laws that are enforceable and have a strong deterrent value. Otherwise, we better get used to seeing hexagenerians asleep in their cardboard boxes along the footpaths of our hip and gentrified city streets.

  24. Michael
    October 11th, 2016 at 20:59 | #24

    “Since dying is usually preceded by sickness and disability, it’s also true that, as individuals of any age, we are less likely to be sick and disabled.” – JQ

    I think that this isn’t true.

    Generally, people are living longer with chronic conditions that maybe once would have killed them.

  25. jrkrideau
    October 11th, 2016 at 21:11 | #25

    @ GrueBleen
    Kelvin, yes Kelvin. Blast it, another handy quotation bites the dust. The next thing we’ll find out is that “Alea jacta est” really was something along the lines of “We’ll camp on that side of the river”.

  26. Ikonoclast
    October 12th, 2016 at 05:05 | #26

    paul walter :
    The older generation wasnt put out to’pasture because it was past its use by date, but because it was capable of an independent level of thought and action that unnerved authoritarians.

    An accurate idea perfectly expressed. I could not agree more.

  27. Ikonoclast
    October 12th, 2016 at 05:13 | #27

    @paul walter

    I should have added this. We remembered that a different kind of society was possible. One where capitalism and privatisation were not completely dominant. One where young people could get free tertiary education and full time jobs. One where it was understood that workers should have rights. None of these memories could be tolerated because they led to operative demands.

  28. Jim Birch
    October 12th, 2016 at 10:04 | #28

    Is grumpyoldmanism correlated with the higher average age population or did it occur earlier before?

  29. Tim Macknay
    October 12th, 2016 at 11:30 | #29

    @Jim Birch

    Is grumpyoldmanism correlated with the higher average age population or did it occur earlier before?

    “The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers.” – Socrates/Plato, circa 400 BC.

  30. GrueBleen
    October 12th, 2016 at 15:14 | #30

    @jrkrideau
    Your #25

    Well at least we can be sure of: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

  31. GrueBleen
    October 12th, 2016 at 15:25 | #31

    @paul walter
    Your #18

    “The older generation … was capable of an independent level of thought and action that unnerved authoritarians.”

    No I wasn’t – and I don’t even know any “authoritarians” much less any “unnerved” ones. Unless you count Joe de Bruyn – I understand he’s just a bit authoritarian – but I don’t actually know him.

    So who did you have in mind as the cohort of “unnerved authoritarians” ?

  32. Julie Thomas
    October 12th, 2016 at 15:36 | #32

    @GrueBleen

    “Quite right ! And therefore I expect every other human being on this planet who possesses an able mind and an able body to be of service – to the maximum of their ability of course – to me !”

    You are saying that you are less able than other people?

    If you judge yourself to be more able than another, it is up to you to give of your superior ability to those others.

    I would say that lots of people here are ‘giving’ to you; you seem so needy.

  33. GrueBleen
    October 12th, 2016 at 16:37 | #33

    @Julie Thomas
    Your #31

    “You are saying that you are less able than other people? “

    Que ? Where did that get into the discourse. You just said, and I quote “You are saying that able-minded able bodied people should endeavour to be of service to other people …”.

    Now if you read what you’ve written, you’ll notice a complete absence of any specification that these “able-minded able bodied people” should only endeavour to be of assistance to those less able minded and bodied than themselves. Can you see the total absence of that in what you said ? What you said was that they should “endeavour to be of service to other people”. And I’m an other people, so they should endeavour to be of service to me.

    Is stunningly simple, yes ?

  34. Julie Thomas
    October 12th, 2016 at 17:44 | #34

    @GrueBleen

    Stunned indeed. But then you probably think that the category ‘able-bodied’ means that the bodies are all equally abled.

  35. paul walter
    October 12th, 2016 at 22:38 | #35

    This Grue Bleen…sometimes this interiority, this deep subjectivity. I know you are trying to share something with people, fighting to explicate the ineffable, something to do with the immanent bases of the human condition itself. The last few are rendered continuingly opaque in the very process of rendition, of such a magnitude is that which you seek to explicate upon.

    I am certain you are not a cretin and I am possessed of a deep faith that substance will yet emerge from your earnest but incoherent attempts at connection, as may occur in the outworkings of more universal cosmic forces and processes.

  36. jrkrideau
    October 13th, 2016 at 00:06 | #36

    @ 29 GrueBleen
    Well at least we can be sure of: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

    Indeed. I always was an admirer of Florence Nightingale.

  37. GrueBleen
    October 13th, 2016 at 02:08 | #37

    @jrkrideau
    Your #35

    Aah, now you’re talking pie charts, aren’t you.

  38. GrueBleen
    October 13th, 2016 at 02:13 | #38

    @paul walter
    Your #34

    …sometimes this interiority, this deep subjectivity. I know you are trying to share something with people, fighting to explicate the ineffable, something to do with the immanent bases of the human condition itself. The last few are rendered continuingly opaque in the very process of rendition, of such a magnitude is that which you seek to explicate upon.

    Wau, seldom do we see such acute self awareness in somebody named Paul.

    But no further diversions and evasions, Paul, just tell us who all those “unnerved authoritarians” are. Or even just one “unnerved authoritarian”, Can you do that ?

  39. Julie Thomas
    October 13th, 2016 at 07:14 | #39

    @GrueBleen

    “But no further diversions and evasions, Paul, just tell us who all those “unnerved authoritarians” are. Or even just one “unnerved authoritarian”, Can you do that ?”

    I can tell you. Look in the mirror. You are a good example of an unnerved authoritarian.

    You are unnerved by what you see as chaos going on here. You are always asking for clarification and then pretending that your question has not been answered.

    Your appeal to JQ to clarify appropriate behaviour in this unnerving environment is a significant indication that you like authoritarianism which is submission to authority, as opposed to individual freedom of thought and action.

  40. GrueBleen
    October 13th, 2016 at 15:26 | #40

    @Julie Thomas
    Your #38

    “Why is a raven like a writing desk ?”

  41. Clive Harberg
    October 13th, 2016 at 17:21 | #41

    @James Wimberley
    Francis Galton, in his famous paper on the efficacy of prayer, pointed out (150 years ago) that the people most prayed for, royalty, did not in fact enjoy enhanced longevity. Similarly, the clergy, the most prayerful (ex hypothesi), did not enjoy enhanced longevity. Galton drew conclusions about the efficacy of prayer, with reservations. The question is open, but data on longevity are available, if one just wants ‘facts’..

  42. Julie Thomas
    October 13th, 2016 at 17:25 | #42

    @GrueBleen

    Because neither one is made of cheese.

  43. October 14th, 2016 at 00:44 | #43

    @Clive Harberg
    Galton’s work should be rerun. A good many European monarchs are in their eighties and still working.

    The relative situation of royalty and commoners has changed in two ways. Up to about 1850 access to learned physicians was no help at all and possibly counterproductive. From at latest 1950, it made a real difference. Second, in the first half of the 20th century they started marrying commoners, undoing the inbreeding that produced the Habsburg jaw and the haemophilia of Victoria’s male descendants.

    Royalty are no doubt prayed for less today, though the homeopathically low intensity of the intention makes the experiment dodgy.

  44. Vegetarian
    October 14th, 2016 at 18:59 | #44

    @Michael
    Spot on, Michael. here are some figures:
    https://theconversation.com/can-medicare-sustain-the-health-of-our-ageing-population-49579
    And anecdotally, I know many people in their nineties and above. All have severe, long-standing medical conditions (dementia, mobility problems, vision and hearing problems etc.) which means many others have had to devote years of paid and unpaid work to keeping them going.

  45. jrkrideau
    October 16th, 2016 at 00:58 | #45

    @Vegetarian
    My two 90+ uncles both had sudden heart attacks while while otherwise being very active. One had a fatal heart attack at the age of 93 while unloading a boat from the roof of his car.

  46. derrida derider
    October 18th, 2016 at 16:20 | #46

    @Vegetarian
    Michael and Vegetarian are clearly ignorant of the long debate over morbidity compression (google it).

    A fair proportion of old people have always been frail and required care for some years before their death. The difference is that 50 years ago “old” meant in their 70s and now “old” means in their 90s. That and we used to expect spinster daughters to look after them.

  47. Harley
    October 18th, 2016 at 20:47 | #47

    Vegetarian :
    @Michael
    Spot on, Michael. here are some figures:
    https://theconversation.com/can-medicare-sustain-the-health-of-our-ageing-population-49579
    And anecdotally, I know many people in their nineties and above. All have severe, long-standing medical conditions (dementia, mobility problems, vision and hearing problems etc.) which means many others have had to devote years of paid and unpaid work to keeping them going.

    If people are frail or demented or going blind in their old age it provides an opportunity for others to be carer and have a fulfilled life.

  48. Nicholas
    October 20th, 2016 at 18:54 | #48

    If we continue the present macroeconomic policy of maintaining a massive cohort of unemployed, under-employed, and precariously employed people who desperately want to contribute to society through paid work, then of course we won’t have sufficient people with sufficient skills to provide the goods and services that older people are going to need in the future. It is misguided and naive to see the rise of older people as a percentage of population as a revenue challenge. There is no revenue challenge give that the federal government can always mobilize whatever real resources are available for sale in its currency. It is 100% a real resource issue.

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