Tom Purcell, 7/23/2018 [Archive]

Wearing Out Longevity's Welcome

Wearing Out Longevity's Welcome

By Tom Purcell

Boy, are Americans getting old.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the median age - the age at which half of the population is older and half is younger - hit an all-time high of 38.0 in 2017.

Why is it rising? Because our massive baby-boom generation continues to go geezer, while young moms and dads are having way fewer kids than American parents used to.

What's more interesting is that the number of Americans who were 100 years or older also hit a record in 2017 - a number that is poised to explode.

According to the World Future Society, we are in the early phases of a superlongevity revolution. Thanks to advances in nanotechnology and cell and gene manipulation, scientists may eventually learn how to keep humans alive for 120 to 500 years.

Though it's great that Americans are living longer, I'm not sure I'd ever want to live THAT long.

Look, I'm 56, a tail-end baby boomer. If I was confident I'd be vibrant and healthy for another 44 years, I might finally get around to marrying and starting a family!

My parents are of the silent generation. They're in in their 80s. I'd love for them to live well beyond 100, so that I can enjoy their company at Sunday dinners for another 20 years or more.

But there are downsides to living so long.

Health-care costs are already out of control and the majority of that spending goes to the elderly. Such costs may become unmanageable as our median age keeps climbing.

If we live 100 years or more, how are we going to pay for it? Living is expensive. Are we going to work 50 years, retire, burn through our nest eggs, then spend 20 or 30 years greeting customers at Walmart?

And what of our younger generations, kids who are notorious slackers? Mother to son in year 2075:

"You're 100 years old! When are you going to move out and get a job?"

Four years shy of 60, I'm already showing signs of fatigue. I don't know when it started, but, like my elderly father, I groan every time I slowly pull myself out of a chair.

Sure, the "primitive male" part of me thinks I could still handle myself if a bar brawl were to break out - but I'd have to do 30 minutes of jumping jacks before I could even think about participating.

Besides, in my experience, life is largely made up of colds, bills, speeding tickets and people who let you down. These experiences are connected together by a series of mundane tasks. The drudgeries are occasionally interrupted by a wonderful meal, a really good laugh or a romantic evening with a lovely lady.

Then the mundane stuff starts all over again.

I don't think I want 500 years of that.

At 56, you see, it seems to me that the key to human happiness is not an abundance of a thing, but a lack of it.

Doesn't pie taste better when we know it's the last slice? Doesn't a football game capture our attention more when it's the last of the season - the one that determines who goes out the winner and who goes out the loser? Isn't a comedian funnier when he exits the stage BEFORE we want him to go?

Besides, if I were to live to 500, I'd have to endure 111 more presidential elections - a punishment I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy!


Copyright 2018 Tom Purcell. Tom Purcell, author of "Misadventures of a 1970's Childhood," a humorous memoir available at, is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. For info on using this column in your publication or website, contact or call (805) 969-2829. Send comments to Tom at

Download Tom Purcell's color photo - Download Tom Purcell's black and white mug shot photo
Why not run a cartoon with the column? We recommend the cartoons below as a good compliment to Tom Purcell's topic.
Click on the thumbnail images to preview and download the cartoons.

Related Cartoons

Elderly News Media Audience COLOR
By: Daryl Cagle
December 30, 2014

Elderly News Media Audience
By: Daryl Cagle
December 30, 2014

 Lib  The Fox News Target Audience Color
By: Daryl Cagle
September 23, 2009

 Lib  The Fox News Target Audience
By: Daryl Cagle
September 22, 2009

Tired Democracy
By: Gatis Sluka

September 13, 2016

Tired Democracy
By: Gatis Sluka

September 13, 2016

We do not accept and will not review unsolicited submissions from cartoonists.
Sales & Information: (805) 969-2829
Billing Information: (805)
Technical Support:

FREE cartoons for your website if you're already a paying print subscriber!
Artwork and columns are copyrighted by each creator. All Rights Reserved. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited. Privacy Policy | Terms of Service