By Rebekah Devorak | Opinions Editor
If you’re trying to find a Hallmark card for celebrating your grandmother’s 116th birthday, good luck. You’re probably not going to find one.
According to a new study conducted by Jan Vijg at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine that was released on Oct. 5, humans have most likely hit a ceiling for life expectancy. The longest that anyone can hope to live, as far as Vijg’s research found, is a cool 115 years.
This is quite the controversial topic, as life and death tend to be. An article by the New York Times on the subject said that scientists have argued back and forth for decades about whether there’s actually a natural upper limit on the age that a human being could reach.
Regardless of where you might stand on this idea, one thing is true: Both arenas of thought regard a life expectancy ceiling as somewhat of a negative thing. Even Vijg himself wrote dejectedly in the study that “from now on, this is it. Humans will never get older than 115.”
But what if this isn’t necessarily a bad thing? Sure, on the outside, it might look and sound a bit bleak. Humans, despite the wildest dreams and endeavors of science that sound straight out of the movies, will probably never break past that age cap of 115. This means that there probably won’t be many incredible anomalies, such as the French woman, Jeanne Calment, who lived to be 122.
To give this some context, the average life expectancy in the United States today is 79 years, according to the New York Times. In comparison, in 1900, the life expectancy of a person was just shy of 50 years. So humans have progressed over the years, and yet scientists are now lamenting whether or not we will be able to leap much further.
Vijg’s study is a firm guarantee that we only have so many years on this earth. There is a maximum to the number of sunrises and sunsets we can see. This is an obvious statement we all know, but, somehow, seeing it written down and explained in a scientific paper cements the truth. We only get so many tallies on the chalkboard until the lights go out.
So why are people worrying about not having an infinite number of days on Earth when we know it’s not really changing a whole lot in the long run? Most of us don’t expect to reach 100, let alone 115. In fact, an article by The Guardian states that only between 26 and 34 percent of 20-year-olds in 2011 had a likelihood of blowing out 100 candles on a birthday cake.
Instead of being distraught over not being able to push the boundaries of age, we should be viewing this as a reminder that life is short. There are quite literally only so many days you can possibly live, and even 115 years can pass by quickly for those lucky enough to reach it. This should be a kick in the pants, a prompt that sparks us into action, vowing to not waste the time that we’ve been given any longer.
If that statement sounds corny, that’s because it is. But it doesn’t mean it’s not true.
The world today is not a pretty place. Presidential candidates are seemingly able to say and do whatever they please without any real consequences. Bloody war is continuing to tear nations apart and pit them against one another. The post-graduation job market is still looking miserable for numerous areas of study, and paying back student loans is appearing to be nearly impossible.
There’s enough pessimism and enough restrictions on what we can and cannot do going on already. Let’s not make an age ceiling another one of those things. Instead, let that 115-year cap inspire us to make the most of our lives.
After all, while the truth of science might be ugly, life is certainly beautiful.