A recent article in the National Post heralds the possibility of increasing ‘life expectancy’; “Canadians have added 25 years to their lifespan in the last century, pushing the limits of aging to extraordinary lengths. . . . The average Canadian’s life expectancy at birth is 81.7, up from 57 in 1921, according to a report Thursday from Statistics Canada.”  (Sarah Boesveld)

Lets not accept an easy equation between life span and life expectancy.  Life span is simply how many years you will live before you die.  Life expectancy should be something much more than a number.  The word ‘expectancy’ is defined as; “the state of thinking or hoping that something, especially something pleasant, will happen or be the case.” It doesn’t take a great deal of reflection to come to the conclusion that perhaps life span and life expectancy may be two very different things.

Sarah Boseveld states; “Quality of life inevitably enters the conversation, and alarm bells have been ringing: One federal report released last year said the average Canadian will spend more than a decade of his or her life dealing with diseases such as high blood pressure, diabetes or cancer.”  Life span is simply a quantitative measure and life expectancy is a qualitative concept.  Ten or twenty years of diabetes and cancer tacked on to the end of your life isn’t a positive expectancy.

My wife, a retired nurse, is always encouraging me to eat right, exercise daily and watch my weight.  She claims that keeping your mobility and fitness level past middle age are very important factors that contribute to a good quality of life in your senior years.  By following her advice I am increasing my ‘life expectancy’ all by myself.  Although in the freezing months of winter as I am putting in my four to five kilometer walk I sometimes have difficulty maintaining a positive attitude.

By losing forty pounds of fat around my gut and cutting back on the carbs and sugars I have gone from being pre-diabetic to ‘normal’ again.  (My wife the ‘head nurse’ is a tough but good coach).  My life expectancy has improved not just for twenty years down the road but I’m enjoying my life today a lot more than when I was an overeater.  I’m not all that concerned about living to be 120 years old but I would like to live well in the time that I have.  Being able to enjoy life is more important to me than putting in years.

I can’t do much about my ‘life span’ –  until I die it remains an actuarial statistic.  Sadly, far too many couch potatoes prefer science and technology to increase their life spans under the mistaken impression that somehow this will magically increase their life expectancy.