Wednesday, May 13, 2009

I'm going to be HOW long???

I recently received an email that invited me to experience a "Life Expectancy Calculator" test. I would be asked to answer a series of questions about my lifestyle, medical and family history. As I answered the questions, my virtual age and life expectancy age would change to reflect my responses.


You start by adjusting the scale to your actual biological age, then enter your gender and race. After that the rest of the questions are all on a sliding scale. The healthier answers are printed in green, the mid range answers are in black and the life shortening answers are in red. The questions include topics like education, exercise, sleep, weight, blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, eating habits, smoking, drug use (prescription and other), regular health checks and more. There were questions on relaxation, stress, happiness, depression, love and friendships. The question on marriage had answers that ranged from happily married to married to single to widowed/divorced/separated to cheating! (Talk about a range of answers!!)

Some of the questions were a little too vague to my liking. The one on driving, for instance, gave a series of miles driven/year, but not the option to say I don't drive. (For some reason the motor vehicles department won't allow legally blind people to drive!) The same with the question of seat belt use. I use seat belts when I am in vehicles that have them, but the options of use did not include one for those of us who rely on public transit that does not even offer seat belts.

It is a simple enough test and only takes a few minutes to complete. The test does cover most of the contributing factors that influence our longevity, but the problem is that it also doesn't ask about some important factors like air quality, neighbourhood, finances or non life threatening chronic health issues.

After answering the 35 questions I was presented with the results that told me how long I can expect to be here in the land of the living. I actually took the test twice as I realized about half way through the first time that the answers for most were on a sliding scale rather than right on any specific answer. That made only a slight difference in my overall scores - less than a year either way actually. My first one was 36.6 for virtual age and 90.4 for life expectancy.Here is the results of my second test:

These types of tests have been around for years. Do a search on Google for "Virtual Life Expectancy calculator" and you will get over 8,000 hits. I checked out the first ten or so and found that several of them were links to the same test I took - even though they were attached to different sites. One site required an account to take a quiz so I don't know what their quiz entailed. The "Living to 100" site asked a series of 40 some questions that touched on pretty much every aspect of life, but gave me almost the same result for longevity. (88). It did not give me a virtual age.

I know that there is a limit to what these tests can gauge and they can be used as a stepping stone towards creating a more healthy life style, but they are not the be all and end all of how old you will be when you finally do kick the bucket. When your time is up, there isn't a whole lot you can do about it regardless of how healthy/unhealthy a life you have led.

Some people may be shocked or even horrified by answering these questions. They may discover that they are expected to be around a lot longer than they thought or have only a few years left or are even living on borrowed time.

Many members of my family have lived well into their 80's and generally have led fairly healthy lifestyles. There isn't a lot of cancer, diabetes, heart disease or other factors that would shorten a lifespan. I, on the other hand have lived with vision loss my entire life. I also have a bit of arthritis and other health factors that would shorten my time, but these factors were not addressed - so according to the quiz I took, I can expect to be here for another 39 years!

39 Years?? Are you kidding me? I'm really hoping that this was a bit of a cosmic joke, as I really can't see this body holding up another 39 years. My mind could probably do it, but I can't imagine how my body will survive that long and still allow me to have any kind of independent life. I know, never say never - and I'm not - it's just that my physical independence is a critical factor to my emotional health. Some people can visualize themselves at advanced ages and be completely convinced that they will be there someday - celebrating their 90th or 100th birthday. I can't and never have been able to see myself as an old person. I know I am getting older every day - I'm not denying that. I just can't see myself as living that far into the future. I'm not giving up or saying that it won't happen - I just can't seem to wrap my mind around the possibility that I'll still be here in 30 years let alone 39!

Well only time will tell how accurate these things really are and of course there is also a lot of things that could happen medically or financially or through the day to day circumstances that can change everything. We live in an unpredictable world where life can change in a split second.

I am not taking these tests too seriously. I prefer to live each day as it comes. I try to find the positive in things and enjoy this ride called life, whenever possible. I try to learn from my mistakes and from the people around me.

"Attitude is everything. Be kinder than necessary, for everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle. Live simply, Love generously, Care deeply, Speak kindly. Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass. It's about learning to dance in the rain."
- Anonymous

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