Attack (but not really) of the Old Old

"Old-Old" is a semi-official term in scientific circles used to describe people over the age of 90 (though that varies). I've met two people who'd qualify as old-old this week, which is kind of unusual in this field. I mean, generally speaking, if you're going to have a stroke, you're not going to be 95. You're gonna be 50, and something is going to kill you before you hit 95.

But lo! What came in t'other day but a 95-year-old? A sharp, active 95-year-old who (aside from a couple of minor, controllable problems) was about 60 in physical terms? That same day I started an IV on a--get this--one hundred and TWO year old who'd just had a knee scope. I had to chase that patient down in the hallway to get them back to the room so I could put the IV in.

When people over 90--and over 100--start showing up in your hospital's physical rehabilitation unit, you know there are some good genetics going on.

The 95-year-old's kids and grandkids and great-grandkids all showed up over the course of a few days, so I got to meet them. The son and daughter, both in their mid-seventies, looked easily twenty years younger (as did the parent). The grandkids, who were my age, looked 30. The great-grandkids were kids, so they didn't look any younger than they were.

It was like being faced with Lazarus Long and his family, right down to the red hair.

It was Longian in another way, too. Let's face it: if you make it past about 80 without any major health problems, you're running pretty much on genetics. Diet and exercise and not smoking and not playing with flaming chainsaws will do a lot to make your life up to about 75 healthy and active, but after that? Stuff starts to wear out. How fast it wears out and what exactly goes first is largely dependent on your DNA.

Good DNA will enable you to live as long as you're going to live with a minimum of health problems. Good *lifestyle*, on the other hand, will protect you from chronic diseases that would make your life hellish for thirty years before you died. What everybody wants is a life that's active up until the end, then a fast decline without torture.

If I were in a philosophical mood, I could turn this into a meditation about how one spends one's life, and how to make 40 years seem like 90. I'm not feeling philosophical.

It was just really freaking cool to meet two people who remembered not only the second World War, but the coming of electricity, piped water, paved roads, and telephones to their neighborhood.