It might sounds odd, but a preplanned death at 75 may be a wise decision. Ezekiel J. Emanuel has made a conscious decision to have his life come to a close when he reaches 75 (or at least that’s what he hopes) for a multitude of reasons. He notices that the quality of life deteriorates faster after that age and that perhaps it’s best to leave this earth before a health crisis cause him to be unable to participate actively in life. Why is this good?
Reflecting on one’s existence is always a good thing, thinking about how our life decisions impact others is always a good thing, and looking at historical trends is good too. Emanuel has clearly put a lot of thought into this and wants all of us to consider the impact of living has on our own mental health, those around us, and the health of the planet.
What are those reasons? Let’s begin with demography. We are growing old, and our older years are not of high quality. Since the mid-19th century, Americans have been living longer. In 1900, the life expectancy of an average American at birth was approximately 47 years. By 1930, it was 59.7; by 1960, 69.7; by 1990, 75.4. Today, a newborn can expect to live about 79 years. (On average, women live longer than men. In the United States, the gap is about five years. According to the National Vital Statistics Report, life expectancy for American males born in 2011 is 76.3, and for females it is 81.1.)
In the early part of the 20th century, life expectancy increased as vaccines, antibiotics, and better medical care saved more children from premature death and effectively treated infections. Once cured, people who had been sick largely returned to their normal, healthy lives without residual disabilities. Since 1960, however, increases in longevity have been achieved mainly by extending the lives of people over 60. Rather than saving more young people, we are stretching out old age.
India has an amazingly large population and I can only imagine the challenges with delivering health care to that many people. India has it somewhat figure out and they keep getting better at it. Recently the country has reduced the number of deaths from tetanus to an all time low and to a level that makes it essentially a statistical blip.
India has reduced cases to less than one per 1,000 live births, which the W.H.O. considers “elimination as a public health problem.” The country succeeded through a combination of efforts.
In immunization drives, millions of mothers received tetanus shots, which also protect babies for weeks.
Mothers who insisted on giving birth at home, per local tradition, were given kits containing antibacterial soap, a clean plastic sheet, and a sterile scalpel and plastic clamp for cutting and clamping the cord.
The modern funeral industry took something that was natural and safe and converted it into a toxic-filled death. When people die we need to dispose of the body in an appropriate way to ensure diseases don’t spread, human civilizations have been doing this for millennia.
However, in the past hundred years we have started taking corpses and filling them with toxic chemicals which means we can’t bury the bodies like we used to. Toxic corpses are more dangerous than non-toxic ones and this has caused people to reflect on what to do.
Green burials are the minimalist, eco-conscious burials of the future, but emerging from a history deeply rooted in the past. The dead are wrapped in cloth shrouds or placed in simple coffins made from natural materials like cardboard or pine and buried in a green space, such as a rural or woodland area. “It turns a gruesome procedure into something more natural and celebratory,” explained Mark Harris, author of Grave Matters: A Journey through the Modern Funeral Industry to a Natural Way of Burial.
He describes the process as, “returning a body into the earth, where it’s allowed to degrade naturally, renourish soil, push up a tree, rejoin a natural cycle of life.” And, green funerals are much cheaper, with most costing in the low thousands, whereas the median cost for a funeral requiring a vault comes in at over $8,000. According to Harris, “the current cemetery functions less as a resting ground for the dead than a landfill of non-biodegradable and sometimes hazardous materials.”
Get Your Shit Together (GYST) is a website dedicated to making it so that other people don’t need to experience what one mother had to go through when her husband suddenly passed away. Losing someone you love is hard enough, but what made things even harder was that the couple never planned for their inevitable deaths which meant that there were a whole series of hurdles that weren’t foreseen.
GYST provides people with the basic documents they need to ensure that whoever takes care of their estate and things after one’s death has an easier time. We all die and that means that someone will have to manage what we leave behind, so we may as well take a couple minutes and make that process easier now while we can.
Here’s the crux as to you GYST exists:
There I was, now a single mother, grieving, facing one of the worst things that could possibly happen. The trauma and grief are enough to completely level you – and yet, the fear about having our wills drafted but not signed, not knowing how much life insurance we had, not knowing the password to his phone so I could call his family, etc. – were often the things that pushed me over the edge. All of that extra stress and pain could have easily been avoided with a few hours of organization and follow through. I don’t want anyone to suffer the same way.
Doing your will is a hassle, collecting passwords is a pain in the ass. I know, I get it. But so is going to the dentist, changing the oil in your car, and getting an annual mammogram. And, we manage to do that stuff anyway
I’m writing this as I sip my first coffee of the day and it makes me feel good to do both activities at once because coffee drinkers have a lower risk of death than non-coffee drinkers.
Coffee drinkers were less likely to die from heart disease, respiratory disease, stroke, injuries and accidents, diabetes, and infections, although the association was not seen for cancer. These results from a large study of older adults were observed after adjustment for the effects of other risk factors on mortality, such as smoking and alcohol consumption. Researchers caution, however, that they can’t be sure whether these associations mean that drinking coffee actually makes people live longer. The results of the study were published in the May 17, 2012 edition of the New England Journal of Medicine.
The researchers found that the association between coffee and reduction in risk of death increased with the amount of coffee consumed. Relative to men and women who did not drink coffee, those who consumed three or more cups of coffee per day had approximately a 10 percent lower risk of death. Coffee drinking was not associated with cancer mortality among women, but there was a slight and only marginally statistically significant association of heavier coffee intake with increased risk of cancer death among men.