0304 GMT November 30, 2022
Old age is a new thing.
In fact, for a very long time in the history of human kind, people didn’t tend to live beyond a few short decades. I’m not speaking just about the times they had to compete with dinosaurs to bring food to the table. Up until the mid-19th century, human lives averaged around 30 years.
Then came the life-altering 20th century, at the end of which the average life expectancy reached somewhere between 50 and 70 for the poorest and richest communities, respectively. And it kept rising.
So much so that we assume death to be a distant happenstance, most likely to come upon us in a caring environment – though the pandemic shattered that established perception. And being around a white-haired person, perhaps a sweet-talking grandparent, has become a common experience in the lives of almost anyone, anywhere.
The modern phenomenon of old age, though, brings about its own set of issues, both collectively and individually. Despite its association with wisdom, being old practically means weaker bones and fewer choices for the individual. This, in turn, puts on our collective shoulder the burden of taking care of senior citizens.
There comes the question of how to best lead the later stage of life. With wealth and opportunities distributed unevenly, and unshakably, in society, an emerging consensus is taking shape around the egalitarian discourse of providing a dignified life for transition into retirement and death.
As culturally contested a concept as it may be, one can arguably pinpoint the basic elements of dignity, including financial security, access to sufficient health care, and enjoying an appropriate level of social inclusion and respect.
Nature is ruthlessly at odds with old age. To grow old with dignity, the discourse proclaims, society should make up for the blessings senior citizens are naturally and unfairly denied.