East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

The Longevity Dividend


I just finished an online course about the strategies for a successful aging.
I’m over fifty, after all, and without a hope in hell for a pension and a healthy retirement, I will have to keep myself in working order until the day I die.
Better start early.


The course was an absolute wonder – lots of ideas, lots of suggestion,m some great interactions with my fellow students, and at least one concept I’ll take away and keep close at hand: the longevity dividend.

The idea is simple – as we grow old, we accumulate experience, what one of the teachers described as “crystallized intelligence”.
We already had a lot of good ideas.
Couple that with a good culture and an agile mind, and we are already halfway to the solution of any problem that might present itself to us.
The trick is remaining creative.

This made me think about two very different things.
The first is the number of “old” characters in the books I grew up with. Allan Quatermain is a good example, but all the great heroes of my childhood were in their forties or older, and this did not cause any particular shock to me.


This is probably the reason why I am leery of the teenage heroes of current books and movies, whose existence is justified by the fact that the younger readers or viewers can’t connect or identify with them otherwise.

Because of this youth-obsessed approach, older characters are today relegated to the roles of adversaries (evil old men) or mentors (wise old men), or maybe comedy relief (foolish old men).
The idea that beyond forty lays a wasteland of physical decay and growing senility is dangerous, because people believes what they read in stories. We believe in them.

Narratives are powerful, and when everybody expects you to be childish and weak, and treats like that, you start believing and behaving like that.
I saw active, smart, intelligent men regress to the sort of foot-shuffling, forgetful wrecks within one year of their retirement, because they expected it should be like that.

And this also led me to think to the local retirement home, the only business in Castelnuovo Belbo – where senior citizens trade their hard-earned retirement money for the opportunity of sitting 12 hours a day in front of a TV screen, watching soulless talk shows while wearing a diaper and eating apple puree.
What a horrid, hellish way of finishing one’s life.
And excepting the obvious cases of dementia, the others are actually being brain-killed by a complacent system: don’t do nothing, you couldn’t anyway, sit here and enjoy this show full of people gossiping.
A scene out of Huxley.
Giving them a puzzle, or a deck of playing cards, or books, would be enough to help them keep a fresh mind. Let them talk among themselves, let them teach what they know to younger people.
But they are old. Everybody expects them to be useless.
What a waste!

I will not die like that.
This is a promise I made myself today.

Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

4 thoughts on “The Longevity Dividend

  1. This is a GREAT post. And what a wonderful course it seems you attended. I am about to turn 31, so I think I still fit into the “young-ones”. But I am married and have a 3-and-a-half-years-old daughter, so a lot of things in my life, these days, keep telling me that time goes on. Faster and faster…
    So… I don’t have to say nothing in particular, just wanted to drop by my 2 cents and say that I really liked this post, because I really “felt it”. Thanks.


  2. Hello, my name is Kevin and we have much in common. I will write a longer letter later, but I thought to offer a comment on this post. My father always said that, when he was supreme dictator, one of the things he would do is build old folk’s homes, orphanages, and animal rescue shelters next to each other. The benefits are obvious; granparents for family-less children and vice versa, and love and companionship from and for the non-humans. (Dad far preferred animals the older he got.) Aloha, Kevin

    Liked by 1 person

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