November 25th, 2011

Ninety is the new eighty

Yesterday at my family’s Thanksgiving dinner in New York we had over twenty people, and two of them—my mother and my aunt—are over 90.

Not only are they over 90, but they’re over 95. My mother is 97 but not far from 98, and my aunt is 96. And this is true despite the fact that they’re not blood relatives, they’re sisters-in-law. They each were widowed quite some time ago and then had another man in their life for a few years who died quite some time ago, too. They each have some problems that require using walkers and hearing aids. They each have gotten very thin and don’t eat much anymore. But they’re each doing pretty well, especially considering all the possibilities.

They’re outliers. But it’s not anywhere near as unusual as it used to be for people to live to be ninety these days, as this article relates. This is especially true of women:

At ages 85 to 89, there is about one man for every two women; by 95 to 99, and 100 and older, there is about one man for every four women.

My mother and my aunt are also typical in their single status:

About half the [90-plus] men are widowers and a whopping 43% are married while 84% of women are widows and a mere 6% are married.

Extreme old age is most definitely not for sissies, from what I’ve seen of it, and I’ve seen quite a bit. And you better get ready to see a lot more of it:

In addition to growing in numbers, the 90-plus population has also increased as a proportion of the older population (aged 65 and over), up from 2.8% of the older population in 1980 to 4.7% in 2010, and it is expected to reach 9.9% in 2050.

2 Responses to “Ninety is the new eighty”

  1. effess Says:

    Social Security? Medicare?

  2. J.J. formerly Jimmy J. Says:

    “The current U.S. life expectancy is 77.5 years.”

    Eureka, I’ve outlived my expected age by a little over a year. But there’s more. “A 75-year-old man can expect, on average, another 10.5 years or 85.5 years total.” So, I can look forward to 7 more years. Okay, I’ll take it, especially if it involves being of sound mind and reasonably sound body. But there’s also this: “Remember, these are averages — you can beat them by eating right, staying active, staying involved and exercising your brain.” Sounds like good advice – I’m trying to follow it……..most of the time. If I do, maybe I’ll make it to 90. All this can be found at:

    They say statistics don’t lie, but they are rather impersonal. Behind each life and death lies a story. Triumph and tragedy, love and loss, health and sickness, excitement and boredom, good-will and anger, and so much more mark our journeys through life. To reach age 90 is to have seen and experienced so much. After such a long journey we should be ready to pass the baton to the young and move on to what lies beyond. Some aren’t and refuse to go quietly into the good night. I hope I’m ready when my time comes.

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.

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