Magazine article The Spectator

Long Life

Magazine article The Spectator

Long Life

Article excerpt

We have now entered the New Year in which we know that everybody, with the exception of those who have not yet been born (like our future king or queen), will be one year older by the end of it. I have already passed that milestone this week, which means that I will be 73 for the rest of the year and will only achieve 74 in the fateful year of Scotland's vote on independence. Still, 73 is quite old enough. It is an age at which it has become difficult to look far into the future with great confidence and one begins to narrow one's horizons a little. There are things now that I am starting to rule out - going to China, for example, or learning to play Chopin's Ballade No. 1 on the piano.

On the other hand, I have a sporting chance of living for a while longer. Unlike the too many friends who have been struck down by serious disease, I am in reasonably good health, except for coughing and wheezing too much, and my life expectancy should in theory be fairly good. It may not be so, of course, and even if it is, there is the risk that I may live on as something of a wreck. An international survey last month, which found that men and women worldwide are living respectively 11 or 12 years longer than they were 40 years ago, also found that their health wasn't keeping pace with their longevity. For every extra five years they might hope to live, they could only expect to avoid illness or disability for under four of them.

That said, it is possibly better to be old than young. The future is not looking bright. No one but an incurable optimist would anticipate any great progress this year towards peace in the Middle East, towards economic recovery in Europe, or even towards reform of America's gun laws.

The English countryside will doubtless continue to be desecrated by wind farms, while the world will get hotter nevertheless. Prospects for mankind are not good. But the old, with only limited time ahead of them, need not worry too much. For their own limited futures may be quite promising. Silvio Berlusconi, who is 76, may look forward not only to marrying a 27-year-old glamour girl but even, perhaps, to making an improbable political comeback as Italy's next prime minister. …

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