Escape Velocity… at age 98

Sometimes the world’s best travelers are those who just can’t stop moving. Surely, you all know someone like that – a grandparent, great-uncle, or family friend – who just never seemed as if they would die (until one day, they did). We had a close friend, Stewie, who beat cancer TWICE in his 90’s and was playing tennis well into his 9th decade. He was driving his full-bodied Cadillac up to age 98 when he accidentally drove it onto a beach. Automobile impediments withstanding, Stewie exemplified the invincible human we all wish to become – perhaps best described by a recent NPR program as a person of ‘escape velocity.’

George Burns' famous quote: the key to longevity "is to make it to age 100, because very rarely do you read about people dying after that age." (He died at age 100.)

As Dr. Mark Lachs argued on an NPR broadcast this morning (a broadcast that left me simultaneously smiling and tearing up), illness and dying can actually be postponed in old age. Take one of his patients for example, who, at age 98, asked whether or not it was safe for him to take his annual pilgrimage to the Swiss Alps. The doctor’s response: YES! (And how’s that for a ‘chic adventurer’?)

This same principle actually applies to a number of animate and inanimate objects: the longer we keep things in working condition (changing out a few parts along the way, perhaps), the longer those ‘things’ (or people) survive. In other words, never stop traveling. Never stop moving. Never stop adventuring. (Don’t stop… believing? – why not a little Journey on this gorgeous Monday morning?)

If you want to hear the broadcast for yourself, the audio and print version are available here. For more by James W. Vaupel, the man whose work inspired this broadcast, go here.

“Things and people in motion tend to stay in motion, and those that don’t, stop—or worse. The older you get, the older you are likely going to get.” – Dr. Mark Lachs


About Kaitlin Solimine

Kaitlin Solimine was raised in New Hampshire but has considered China a second home for the past two decades. She is the author of the award-winning forthcoming novel Empire of Glass and co-founder of Hippo Reads, a media start-up connecting academic insights with real world issues. She lives in Singapore.
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One Response to Escape Velocity… at age 98

  1. Too true, my peripatetic friend. The most active minds and bodies are the ones who carry on til a ripe old age. I can completely see you channelling George Burns, smoking a stogie until you’re craggy in the face and making wisecracks to the wee nippers around you!

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