Eight weeks ago on Forbes I noted an article I’d found that said half of all humans who’ve ever been 65 are alive today. (Actually the source said 60-75% of all 65+ people ever. But I’ll settle for half.) In less than two years that demographic bomb will include me.
Think about that. There are 3x more people alive today (7 billion) than at the start of the baby boom (2.3 billion, 1946). Combine it with the reality that because medicine is awesome, people who in those days would have died (e.g. me) are living much longer. Lots of old people coming. Zombie fields of old people. (We’re not “getting old” until much later, but there are a lot of us.)
Case in point: here are the 34 obituaries in today’s New York Times.
- 90+: 11 of them (almost 1/3)
- Composer Henri Dutilleux, 97
- Roger L. Shinn, 96
- Cuckoo’s Nest doctor Bill Brooks, 96
- Short story writer Mary Ward Brown, 95
- Jazz zealot Jean Bach, 94
- War photographer Wayne Miller, 94
- Battle of the Bulge honoree Vernon McGarity, 91
- “Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile” author Bernard Waber, 91
- Canadian abortion advocate Henry Morgentaler, 90
- Jean Stapleton (Edith Bunker), 90
- William Demby, 90
- 80+: 15 of them
- Recording studio magnate Mack Emerman, 89
- Novelist Morris Renek, 88
- Artist Otto Muehl, 87
- “SWAT” actor Steve Forrest, 87
- Entertainment lawyer James Tolbert, 86
- Aircraft executive John Bierwirth, 85 Median (midpoint of the list): age 85!
- Priest/author Andrew Greeley, 85
- Abscam mayor Errichetti, 84
- Tonight Show drummer Ed Shaughnessey, 84
- Pro Bowl guard Bill Austin, 84
- Civil rights activist Alton Lemon, 84
- Actress/playwright Franca Rame, 83
- Poetry printer Kim Mercker, 81
- Journalist Haynes Johnson, 81
- Snapple founder Leonard Marsh, 80
- 70+: 5 of them (note that 3 were almost 80)
- Bill Haley bassist Lytle, 79
- French singer Georges Moustaki, 79
- Nobel physicist Heinrich Rohrer, 79
- Marvin Junior of The Dells, 77
- ’71 Lakers sharpshooter Flynn Johnson, 72 (multiple myeloma)
- Under 70: 3 of the 34
- Lewis Yocum, sports orthopedist, 65 (liver cancer)
- “O-oh Child” singer Clarence Burke, 64
- Jazz pianist Mulgrew Miller, 57 (stroke)
Now ask yourself: as this very large mob gets older and bigger, who’s gonna take care of ’em medically?
I suggest: teach ’em all (teach us all) how to stay on top of our health status, and give us the tools and data to do it.
Be very afraid, medicine. Or, just lighten up: Let Patients Help.
Strange but had yesterday similar thoughts going through the social events pages of the Sunday paper. First, I looked the marriage announcements, very few now (we have nearly 60% youth unemployment) and remarked that several are now with foreign nationals living in Greece. The obituaries were similarly few but what strike me is the very old age of women…
Dave, you made a point: who will take care of the thousands of elderly? Now, children have a very different life style than the one we had, and don’t see many 30+ that would take day-in day-out care of old parents, as it was customary with our generation.
Besides, let’s be open about it: physicians get impatient or uninterested with elder patients. We better learn while still in good physical condition how to take care of ourselves, use technology to help us and be outspoken about our wishes.
Indeed, medicine should listen to the global 65+ population: LET PATIENTS HELP