Thursday, June 18, 2009


Abe Cohen is pretty sure he will celebrate his 100th birthday in a few weeks. Not only is he more handsome than average, clearly he's also older. The average American lifespan is currently about 78 years but the Census Bureau predicts that in 2100 the United States will have 5.3 million people over 100 years old. Yes, this is an issue for health care reformers. But you can't blame Abe and his cronies for the overall skyrocketing costs. According to noted health economist Uwe Reinhardt,
...research around the world has shown that the process of the aging of the population by itself adds only a very small part – usually about half a percentage point — to the annual growth in per-capita health spending in industrialized societies...
Reinhardt said most of the growth in medical expenses can be attributed to
  • overall population growth
  • increases in the prices of health care goods and services
  • new/high-cost medical products and treatments used by all age groups

Even now Abe doesn't get a lot of high tech care. He was strong and fit well into his 80s and as a young man he played basketball. He grew up in Chicago, the son of immigrants. You could say he was more street smart than book smart.

A classic National Geographic report on longevity suggests a vegetarian diet plays a role for some of the world's eldest elders. But Abe loves salami and, as he might say, look, do you want to live long -- or just have it SEEM like a long life? Here are his top three pieces of longevity wisdom, as told to me by his granddaughter:

  1. He is extremely social and loves a party. Especially if there's a singalong.
  2. He’s confident and willing to take risks. Abe was not phased at the age of 88 when his cardiologist recommended quadruple bypass surgery and a pacemaker. He bounced back from surgery like a man in his 50s.
  3. He believes goals are important -- like living to 100, or attending his grandson's Bar Mitzvah (just five more years!)
All in all, 100 looks like it will be OK for Abe and, although he doesn't hear well, his upcoming party will include a singalong. To life, to life, L'Chaim!

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