Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Pursuit of Agelessness & Deathlessness

Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew was born on Sept 16, 1923 and he is 85 years old today.

If I were to recount his life achievement in the past eighty over years, I will have a lot to write. To me, being an octogenarian in a relatively healthy state is one of his great achievements.

Since time immemorial, men have been fascinated with the thought of being immortal. Qin Shi Huang was so obsessed that he spent much of his life time searching for the elixir for life.

The average lifespan today has increased to 70-80 years. With better healthcare and life sciences, we can expect human lifespan to be further extended. Soon, we will be talking about whether we can attain the stage of a centenarian.
As the postwar baby-boomers edge towards retirement, scientists are predicting an explosive growth in the segment of the population aged 100 or older. There are more than 80,000 centenarians in America and by 2050 there will be more than 1 mil of them.

Nearer to home, the number of Japanese living beyond 100 has more than doubled during the past 6 years to a record high of more than 36,000 this year. Interestingly, the women dominate the centenarian club.

People surviving past their 100th birthday have always attracted much attention because survival to that age is an exceptional event. In 1998, there were 135,000 centenarians in the world. By 2050, there will be 2.2 million centenarians, that is one of every 5,000 people.

The largest centenarian populations in 2050 are projected to be in China (472,000), the USA (298,000), Japan (272,000) and India (111,000). By then,
Japan will have the highest proportion of centenarians at 2.6 per thousand of the total population.

The Japanese seems to hold some untold secrets to longevity. In their attempt to to unravel the mystery, scientists studied the elderly people of Okinawa, Japan. They were chosen because they enjoy what may be the longest life-expectancy in the world. I doubt the scientists are any wiser after the studies.

Why are people so obsessed with longevity or immortality? The thought of living on this earth forever can be a chilling one, depends on how you look at it.

I watched the movie 'Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium' featuring a 243-year old Mr. Magorium who owned a toy store. He decided that he should die and bequeathed the store to his assistant, Molly Mahoney. Molly was not prepared and asked why wouldn't he want to live? Mr. Magorium replied, "I already did!". I supposed he felt that life ought to come to an end no matter how good it has been.

Anyway, by 2050, Singapore will have about two centenarians per one thousand people. If you start to do something to improve your lifestyle, you might stand a chance to be one of them.

Here's a toast to good health for MM Lee. Happy Birthday!

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