There seems to have been quite a bit in the news lately not only about ‘spare parts’ for people but, even more exciting, future developments in this field. It reminds me that we are the pioneers in terms of replacement parts particularly when our limbs or other parts of us pack up because we are living longer.
I suspect no-one will ever know how long humans can be expected to live as older people continue to push the upper limit and currently the older age groups, classed as ‘old, old’ although I don’t think any of us like this term, are the fastest growing. If we look at life expectancy another way never have so many people continued to live beyond 65. This makes us pioneers in the field.
We are now taking another look at our soldiers who return from war often with their limbs shattered and the two groups together make a sizable number with similar needs. I assume that this is the incentive for new developments in artificial limbs. The latest very exciting development is in the design of artificial arms and legs which respond to commands from the brain to do whatever activity we want to do with them. If we want to pick up a cup for example we will only have to think about it and our artificial arm will reach out and do it using the new ones currently being developed. Other research is based on artificial eyes which will give at least some sight to the blind.
All this is designed not only for our young injured soldiers but also benefits us older people. The stress today is not just on living longer but having a quality life. We of course must take some responsibility. We will only keep fit and retain the use of our limbs if we take a personal exercise plan seriously. I don’t have much sympathy for older people who complain about their aches and pains when they just sit around all day. That isn’t what old age should be about. We should be aiming at a time in our lives when we can still accomplish what we want to do and gain satisfaction from doing it. If you want to know what centenarians are capable of doing I recommend the ‘Blue Zones’ book by Buettner. They show that even in this late stage of our ageing we can still lead satisfying and enjoyable lives.
I’m sure most of us don’t have plans or ambitions to live to be 100 but it’s good to know that things can still be quite good as we get older if we lead the right type of lives. We live in a world in which there are an ever-growing number of substitutes for our limbs and organs, and drugs to assist them, to make life easier for us. Our own attitude to life and the way we organise ourselves both physically and mentally seem to be the magic recipe for us to not only live longer, as we are doing, but also to enjoy these later years of our lives and get satisfaction from them. The medical fraternity is doing its bit; now its up to us.