Sunday, March 23, 2014

Live Long, Die Short: The case for compression of morbidity

Interview with Dr Roger Landry, a preventative medicine physician and the president of Masterpiece Living, a group that is committed to the vision of people maximizing their potential and aging successfully.

Why do I care about trying to understand the aging process?
Specifically, I am sometimes asked, why do I focus so much on living a long life?  I would say, a long, healthy life. The answer, to me, is obvious. 

First, the alternative does not sound like fun. 

Second, the global benefits of having a fit, elderly population are almost immeasurable - both fiscally and practically. A healthy generation of baby boomers would spend less on health care, contribute to society and fulfill personal goals that their parents could only dream of. 

Which brings me to my third reason to live long and healthy.  I have a very long bucket list. I will never run out of things to do.

I am always curious to hear how other, like-minded, aging enthusiasts respond to the same question. When I met Dr Roger Landry recently, he gave me this answer.

"I have many people say, 'I don’t want to live to be 100', but it is under the mistaken presumption that that it will involve a significant decline, impairment, pain, a burden to their families - and yet if I ask them in their 50’s if they’ve had enough life, no one ever answers ‘yes, I’ve had enough life.' 

"We have the capability, to describe it best as an analogy, to live with the performance capabilities that we have say in our 40’s or 50’s or low 60’s for much much longer.  It’s a matter or throwing away potential capital that you have, it’s throwing away money you’ve saved and so it makes no sense to me. 

"Perhaps those who plan societies may say 'what are we going to do with a world population that’s that large' but that’s a little beyond my pay grade.  I’m about the quality of life of those who are living and having them reach their potential and contribute back to society as well as enjoyment of life."

I agree and would add - returning to the bucket list - that I aspire to get to 90 or 100+ and to travel to those countries that I've always wanted to visit because I am still physically able.  Or, for those with children, wouldn't it be wonderful to reach a great age and still be able to crouch down on the floor (probably with your great grandchildren) and play - and then stand up without getting someone to haul you back into the rocking chair. 

Dr Landry has written a fascinating book, Live LongDie Short: A Guide for Authentic Health and Successful Aging. A The book's title is inspired by a public health term, compression of morbidity, about which I have written in the past.  

As Dr Landry explains: 

"Morbidity is being sick and we like to compress the time that someone is sick rather than to have a long decade, two decade, three decade-long period of decline that is not only detracts from the quality of life, but is also very expensive as a nation, as well as an individual."

Listen to the full interview:

Dr. Landy was a flight surgeon in the Air Force for over 22 years.  He retired as a highly decorated full Colonel and Chief flight surgeon at the air force surgeon general’s office in Washington DC after duty on five continents. He was medically involved in a number of significant world events including: Vietnam, the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, the Beirut bombing of the Marine barracks, the first seven shuttle launches, and the first manned balloon crossing of the pacific.