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Longevity in my Family over the Centuries
Old 08-24-2012, 04:26 PM   #1
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Longevity in my Family over the Centuries

My paternal grandfather was very interested in genealogy. He researched church records going back to the 1600's and was able to catalog all the births, deaths, marriages, and baptisms of people carrying our last name in our region of origin for the past 400 years. He unfortunately never had the time to organize the data in a family tree format. I have been the first one in the family to have the time, interest, and stamina necessary to pour through the data and complete his work.

Interestingly, the death data contains important information such as the age at death and sometimes cause of death. Since I love crunching numbers, I thought it would be fun to tabulate the age at death for men in my family. I organized the data by century. I omitted men who died before the age of 30 because they either died soon after birth or died an untimely death in wars or pandemics. I was only interested in adult men who most likely died of natural causes (an average of 25 data points per century).

Average age at death for men who died in:
the 17th century: 60
The 18th century: 62
The 19th century: 69
The 20th century: 77
Current life expectancy for men in my region of origin: ~78

The advance in basic medicine during the 19th century seemed to have had a surprisingly profound impact on life expectancy. But I was dismayed by the comparatively small improvement made to life expectancy during the 20th century, a time of incredible advancements in both modern medicine and nutrition.

It also looks like I am being very optimistic by extending my FIRE plan to age 100. The record holder was only 89 when he passed away.
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Old 08-24-2012, 05:11 PM   #2
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Fascinating! My father was interested in geneology, and so I have some geneological information for my family although I haven't really looked into it deeply. However, when scanning in all my old family photos recently, I found the names on the photos but little else. I had to figure out who these people were. So, I looked through some geneological materials and came across some information in that process.

I discovered that my great great grandfather, his wife, and several of his children all died within a few months of one another in the 19th century. According to the records, they all died of pneumonia. How shocking, and what an awful way to go.

I don't think I have ever heard of so many members of one family dying of pneumonia within a few months of one another, in present times. Perhaps that is because of better climate control inside houses, as well as the advent of antibiotics, and greater availability of medical care. So, my point is that other advances in civilization have helped life expectancy, as well as advances in medicine.
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Old 08-24-2012, 07:15 PM   #3
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I do not have genealogy records to know more than one generation back.

My grandparents died of infectious diseases early, so that did not count.

My father died at 73. My aunts and uncles did better, but they only got to the mid or late 80s. And what they died of, it was not anything that modern medicine could do, meaning the cause was just general degradation of old age. I doubt that I would do better than they did.
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Old 08-24-2012, 07:39 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by FIREd View Post

The advance in basic medicine during the 19th century seemed to have had a surprisingly profound impact on life expectancy. But I was dismayed by the comparatively small improvement made to life expectancy during the 20th century, a time of incredible advancements in both modern medicine and nutrition.
The increase in life expectancy is mostly not the work of doctors and medicine, but of plumbers. It was the public sanitation and water commissions that were set up following the cholera epidemics of the 1830's and 1840's that established clean water supplies and sewer systems which were the biggest improvements.

The doctors have always liked to claim undeserved credit for the increase in life span.
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Old 08-24-2012, 09:24 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NW-Bound
I do not have genealogy records to know more than one generation back.

My grandparents died of infectious diseases early, so that did not count.

My father died at 73. My aunts and uncles did better, but they only got to the mid or late 80s. And what they died of, it was not anything that modern medicine could do, meaning the cause was just general degradation of old age. I doubt that I would do better than they did.
"Only got to the mid or late 80's"..... NW, I would take that in a heart beat! I know people have to financially prepare for more, but if I made 85, I would die happy. My previous generations are up and down on longevity. But all that survived above 85 in the last few generations found the nursing home and dementia. I would prefer to avoid that.
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Old 08-24-2012, 09:35 PM   #6
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My father-in-law is 92. His mind is OK, and he still recognizes his relatives and can still recount memories of friends. But his body has deteriorated to the point he has lost all mobility. He could not even bend his elbows to feed himself with a spoon. He has been having trouble swallowing, though everything has to be pureed as baby food. It may not be long before they put in a feeding tube.

Not that I can have a choice, but do I want to have a clear mind in that physical condition? It's depressing. I hope to be able to get a one-way ticket to Holland when my time comes. They would be able to help me there, and I understand that it's legal.
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Old 08-24-2012, 09:54 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by NW-Bound
My father-in-law is 92. His mind is OK, and he still recognizes his relatives and can still recount memories of friends. But his body has deteriorated to the point he has lost all mobility. He could not even bend his elbows to feed himself with a spoon. He has been having trouble swallowing, though everything has to be pureed as baby food. It may not be long before they put in a feeding tube.

Not that I can have a choice, but do I want to have a clear mind in that physical condition? It's depressing. I hope to be able to get a one-way ticket to Holland when my time comes. They would be able to help me there, and I understand that it's legal.
I know we all give cursory thoughts of living into old age. But I wonder if we simply think of ourselves as generally the same person we are now except with more wrinkles and gray hair. Unfortunately it may not end this way. Ive seen my dad who is in his mid 70s really start to fail physically. 10 years ago he could rehab a house, now he needs a cane to move around.
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Old 08-24-2012, 10:02 PM   #8
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My FIL was doing fairly well when he was 85-86. He was walking a mile a day at that age, and when people saw him they commented how well he looked. Then, he started going downhill fast.

One day he fell and broke his shoulder blade. He recovered then fell again and broke his hip and an arm. This time, he had to go to a nursing home and had been there since. Another fall in the nursing home, and he broke another arm. Now, there is no more danger of falling, as he has lost all mobility although the fractures all healed. His muscles and tendons have deteriorated.
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Old 08-24-2012, 10:23 PM   #9
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I've already outlived my mother's and her father's ages at their deaths. It's all downhill from here! My other grandfather was over 97 at his death.

Meanwhile all four of my spouse's grandparents lived into their high 90s or early 100s. They lied about their ages so frequently (Russian emigrants) that they lost track of their actual birthdates, and no (unaltered) records had been kept. Her parents are still hale & hearty in their late 70s and show no signs of slowing down. It'll be interesting to see how the genetics play out.

The Department of Defense Actuary reports that (as of September 2011) there were 336 military retirees over the age of 100. Three of them were 109 years old.

Quote:
Originally Posted by FIREd View Post
It also looks like I am being very optimistic by extending my FIRE plan to age 100. The record holder was only 89 when he passed away.
From a financial longevity perspective, it'd be pessimistic to extend your FIRE plan to 100. If you die before then, you "win"!

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Originally Posted by NW-Bound View Post
Not that I can have a choice, but do I want to have a clear mind in that physical condition? It's depressing. I hope to be able to get a one-way ticket to Holland when my time comes. They would be able to help me there, and I understand that it's legal.
I always wonder if I'd like to see another sunrise, no matter how immobile I get. Of course this depends on whether I can operate the computer cursor with my eyeballs or some other part of my anatomy.
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Old 08-24-2012, 11:25 PM   #10
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(snip) Not that I can have a choice, but do I want to have a clear mind in that physical condition? It's depressing. I hope to be able to get a one-way ticket to Holland when my time comes. They would be able to help me there, and I understand that it's legal.
I recently listened to Your Medical Mind on audiobook. Many people say they would rather die than live on in a very deteriorated physical state, but not all who say so beforehand feel the same way when they actually arrive at that point in their lives. I think the book is well worth reading or listening to, even if you don't have any important medical decisions to make right this minute.
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Old 08-25-2012, 09:53 AM   #11
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Thanks for the link.

Yes, I am aware that we do not really know until we get there. However, one must start to take death seriously and reflect on it beforehand, particularly when we get to our age.

In the end, I think we will all face it alone. No matter if one has been in the care of family or not, in the end he most likely dies alone.

My father-in-law does not talk much anymore. Being an extrovert, he had a lot of friends whom he survived. His siblings are gone. He is visited daily, and is fed by one of his offsprings to make sure that he eats enough, but I am sure he feels lonely.
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Old 08-25-2012, 10:23 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nords
I've already outlived my mother's and her father's ages at their deaths. It's all downhill from here! My other grandfather was over 97 at his death.

Meanwhile all four of my spouse's grandparents lived into their high 90s or early 100s. They lied about their ages so frequently (Russian emigrants) that they lost track of their actual birthdates, and no (unaltered) records had been kept. Her parents are still hale & hearty in their late 70s and show no signs of slowing down. It'll be interesting to see how the genetics play out.

The Department of Defense Actuary reports that (as of September 2011) there were 336 military retirees over the age of 100. Three of them were 109 years old.

From a financial longevity perspective, it'd be pessimistic to extend your FIRE plan to 100. If you die before then, you "win"!

I always wonder if I'd like to see another sunrise, no matter how immobile I get. Of course this depends on whether I can operate the computer cursor with my eyeballs or some other part of my anatomy.
The number of centurions is certainly rising. I recently read that as recently as when Nixon was in office he would personally hand write a congratulatory note to people who passed the century mark. That would probably be a very time consuming job, now.
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Old 08-25-2012, 10:26 AM   #13
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Many people say they would rather die than live on in a very deteriorated physical state, but not all who say so beforehand feel the same way when they actually arrive at that point in their lives.
That is SO true, at least with my family. Even when my mother was 97 years old, she told me that she enjoyed every day. She said pretty much the same thing that you are saying. Although she thought (when she was younger) that she would rather be dead than 97, in reality she said it turned out to be a lot of fun. I guess our outlook and expectations must shift to some extent as we age.

That makes a lot of sense to me. After all, at 64 I can't do most of the things I could do forty years ago. In my 20's, I remember carrying three big boxes full of books at once and BOUNDING upstairs with them during a move, and thinking that was fun. I could never do that now, with my bad knees. But my goodness, life is wonderful even without my prior capabilities. I never even think of doing the things I did in my 20's, so I don't feel bad about my diminished capabilities.
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Old 08-25-2012, 02:03 PM   #14
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But my goodness, life is wonderful even without my prior capabilities. I never even think of doing the things I did in my 20's, so I don't feel bad about my diminished capabilities.
I can't remember many of the things I did in my 20s. That's how I know I was doing them right...
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