I heard an great interview with Elton John the other day in which he spoke of how he feels he is at the top of his form as a musician and performer – aged a mere 68. He also is planning to cut back on his touring schedule – not because it is a struggle, but to spend more time with his sons – at 2 and 4 years old. So at a time that most people are planning their retirement homes and trying to keep track of their grandchildren, he is turning the notions of old age on its head.
Most careers have a limited life expectancy, but the arts – especially at the top of the tree – people can keep going till they drop, or choose to stand aside to make way for the next generation. Because they love what they’re doing, and not a lot of people can say that abut their work. The arts are often driven by your own personality and interests, rather than a clock or financial demands.
But there is also the matter of money – a few weeks back Dr Christian Jensen did a show on how the rich seem to live longer than us peasants, and it seems they also have better quality of life. They are less stressed, they eat better, they have the money to get someone to solve problems, but they also have so much more choice – in what they do, where they live, who they have to deal with.
Jensen went to a German spa where they got him to eat dry bread and yoghurt, to chew each mouthful repeatedly. It seemed silly but it made him focus on eating, a form of mindfulness. They put him through lots of treatments which he claimed didn’t make medical sense, but they got results. He spoke to a high powered businessman who lost weight, became less stressed, and came back again. Maybe what was happening was a chance to stop having to make decisions. A chance for some quiet away from work and family.
Health care is not all about science, because science carries risks, and we are more than just a pile of chemicals. Being well off can give us better lives, but it’s not the only way. There’s really no price on happiness, which is the ultimate magic bullet for a long healthy life, and it comes in as many forms as we do.