REFLECTIONS: A slightly shorter shelf life

I recently received some literature from a funeral home about making burial plans.

It didn’t make my day. After all, there is something morbid about making funeral plans when the dead body is going to be yours.

Besides, why jump on this? When you’re dead, your burial plans are not your problem. Let somebody else, whether it’s your spouse or your children, take care of it.

Besides, I assume that my recently deceased soul will be rather preoccupied trying to pass muster with St. Peter at the Pearly Gates.


Still, it made me curious to see what the life expectancy in America is these days.

I wasn’t thrilled to see the latest stats available -- the 2015 numbers released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in December 2016 (it takes them a year to count all the dead bodies, I guess).

For the first time since 1993, life expectancy in the United States dropped significantly for the entire population, not just certain groups.

Evidently Americans are not taking better care of their health and are wolfing through the pastry tray of life with more gusto than they once did.

Consequently, whispers of mortality are growing louder across the land.

On average, Americans can now expect to live 78.8 years, a statistically significant drop of 0.1 year from the previous year.

Though this doesn’t sound like much, it may foreshadow a larger dip to come, or it may prove to be a blip reversed when the 2016 numbers are released this December.

Women can still expect to live longer than men -- 81.2 years vs. 76.3 years -- but both of those estimates were lower in 2015 than they were in 2014.

Life expectancy at age 65 remained the same in 2015. Once you’ve reached that age, you can expect to live another 19.4 years. Again, women fare slightly better: 20.6 years, vs. 18.0 years for men.

Since I will turn 68 (gulp) on June 14 (I share the same birthday date with Donald Trump but please don’t tell anyone), I calculate that as of then -- statistically speaking -- I will have 16.4 years to live.

Based on that probability, I have scratched plans to attend the 2036 Summer Olympic Games.

Of course, there always is a good news-bad news karma about everything.

If we live longer, unhealthy Social Security and 401(k) issues may give us a heart attack. That in itself may slow our progress toward eternal life here on earth.

Another negative about longer life is the quality of life. If you don’t remember your name or need a forklift to get from the bedroom to the bathroom, a longer life span may not prompt jumping jacks of joy.

Ditto if you live in New Jersey.

Well, just to maintain perspective, falling anvils still do crush folks from time to time.

Since my wife is a year younger than me and has a longer life expectancy (a reward for a gender which gets short shrift in pay and gets stuck more with raising the kids), I have become even nicer to her.

Since I’ll likely die before my wife (a good thing because I don’t cook), I don’t want to upset her.

After all, God knows what she’ll do with my ashes.