Longer but not Better?

Living to 80 is not the feat that people think it is. As I’ve often said, people routinely lived active lives well into their 80’s in ancient Asian and Mediterranean cultures  (there are numerous examples including my favorite being that of Alexander the Great’s elite troops who were active in the field well into the 70’s and 80’s long after their king had died).

The key to a quality life, regardless of the number reached, is what you do every day in that life. Are you living fully as a parent, a professional or business owner, and as a person in pursuit of their own philosophical or spiritual goals?  If you’re not and every day is just a burden then maybe that long-life will be ill-spent.

Maybe we should expect to live only to 60 and live a consequently fuller life because mortality draws even nearer. Would we be more active? More willing to take a necessary risk? Would we live more richly?

The men who landed on the beaches at Normandy, climbed Everest, or who landed on the moon took risks that many now would not in our age of mandatory bike helmets, safety regulations, and other attempts to soften the impact of life’s challenges.

By living longer but without challenge and risk, do we live well?


  1. Hey John,

    The info regarding Alexander the Great was from a research article in The Gerontologist back in the 90’s (I have a scanned hard copy which I can email) and from Robin Lane Fox’s excellent book on the life of Alexander (http://amzn.to/c37jMX).

    Specifically, that he inherited his father’s troops when he became king (putting them in the age range of late teens to 30) and that most of them followed him from Macedonia to India and then back, fought in his battles and the battles of his Successors which puts them at 60 years of age and beyond (one of his generals died in the field at the age of 90).

    In fact these troops, known as the Shield Bearers, were finally sent to Kandahar in Afghanistan where they were used on special missions in pairs so as to ensure that they never reformed their unit such was their ability to turn the tide of battle.

    It makes sense, really. A lifetime of focused training, combat, and hardship. makes for a disciplined and frightening adversary.

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