Fondazione Zoé

Some scientists are fighting to let us reach the limit, judged possible, of 120 years.

Today the average life expectancy has almost doubled compared to the start of the last century, thanks to medical progress, technology, pharmacology and hygiene. Men reach 76 years and women 82. Between maturity and old age, we have inserted the “third age” between 60 and 80 years old. Some scientists are fighting to let us reach the limit, judged possible, of 120 years. According to newspapers, someone is already thinking about this. This news is rightly welcomed by public opinion, because increasing life expectancy is seen as good in itself and an indicator of well-being and level of civilisation of a people.

But how do we reach the 80 year threshold physically healthy and mental lucid? Above all, it seems necessary to have a good genetic line given by mother and father; a good constitution through a healthy Mediterranean diet and it is recommended that you avoid alcohol and smoking and exercise frequently but with moderation.
However, we must also add that, if we want to give correct information, the time between 60 and 80 represents the most delicate twenty years, with a large number of potential chronic-degenerative illnesses. There are those that hit the nervous system like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and dementia, the skeletal system like osteoporosis, arthritis and osteoarthritis, the cardiovascular system like arteriosclerosis leading to a heart attack or stroke, the respiratory system like emphysema and pulmonary fibrosis and, finally, the immune system with the growth of tumours. They are all things which, with the best prognosis, compromise quality of life and, in the worst case scenario, avoid…old age. But in finding the solution to all of these problems, we can trust in medical science which has made a lot of progress and will continue to do so.

Is everything ok, then? Maybe not, if we look closer some problems remain. Man is one of the very few animals, if not the only one, to live long after it has lost its ability to reproduce. Man is the only animal to go into retirement. These two moments in life happen in sequence in the period we often call the third age. A logical sensation of uselessness is felt by these people, if you think that society wants us beautiful, energetic, involved and competitive and, above all, engaged in something important which gives us authority and prestige, leading to marginalisation, indifference and abandoned.
Those who suffer most are, above all, the poor, unproductive and dependent on strangers: unable to relate to others, unable for dignity to find company and disinterested in the world which changes quickly and to which they are unable to adapt. These people will certainly not want to reach 120 years old, long, empty years towards an empty end.
Experts and scientists must focus more on quality rather than the quantity of time in life of these people who will soon constitute a huge economic, social and political problem, given that the 600 million over 70s will become 2 billion by 2050.

Some people can trick time by cultivating their own allotment (those who have it) or dedicate themselves to gardening; the well-educated with reading, educative holidays, visiting museums and galleries and might find a happy moment if they catch the welcoming eye of someone else. Those with the most control over their faculties, who arrive at 80 in good physical health, will be able to play out their last neurones on the golf course, seeking the unreachable golf ball and the unwinnable hole.

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