Do not regret growing older. It is a privilege denied to many. ~ Unknown.
Earlier in the week I celebrated my Nanna’s (Grandma sounds too ancient apparently) 90th birthday. There were a few unexpected surprises for her, maybe a few too many for a woman her age! But you could see the glint in her eye and you knew she was enjoying every moment of it. She is a remarkable lady, and for her age has a brilliantly sharp mind. She can recall details of past conversations, miscellaneous facts and puts me to shame when it comes to the Countdown number round – ‘it’s easy all you can do is multiply, add, subtract and divide’. Oh, if only it were that simple! I find it amazing that she was born in the Roaring Twenties era and has seen so much change in the world – discovery, invention, war, technological advances – she has never owned a mobile phone or used the internet! I imagine the modern world seems a radically different place, almost unrecognisable, to the times my Nanna grew up in.
It got me thinking about something she said to me over Christmas – ‘don’t live your life like I did’. I didn’t ask what she meant at the time. I’m still unsure whether she was referring to the fact she had never traveled outside England or had never had a career/life of her own outside raising a family – 5 children must have been a handful. Regardless I still think that’s an achievement. ‘Getting to the top’ is subjective, just because you didn’t have a high-flying career doesn’t mean you shouldn’t feel accomplished. To me, you are a measure of your own success. If I have an occupation I’m passionate about and have ventured out and explored Planet Earth I’ll feel more than wildly successful.
Robert Butler’s book ‘The Longevity Revolution’ argues that celebrations like my Nanna’s will be a lot more common in years to come. With life spans being likely to expand to 120 years due to ‘advances in genomics and regenerative medicine’ which will result in a decrease in age-related diseases and slowing the phenomenon of aging. This is dependent on funding being pumped into medical research areas such as germ-line engineering of course (sparking much interesting debate). I did giggle when I read that ‘Aubrey de Grey of Cambridge University, [suggested] a life expectancy of five thousand years by 2100‘. Sounds more like science fiction to me, but then again so did the iPod and trans-global instant messaging to my Nanna.