Life Begins at 40
If you are a lady that lives in Monaco you can expect to live for 89 years. If you are a Sierra Leone national, you can expect to live for 48 years. That difference seems huge. Four decades of potential life and opportunity are the difference between the worlds ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’. It seems incredible to think that in some parts of the world that a person celebrating their 40th birthday should really seriously be considering retirement. At the very least they should be considering doing all those things they always wanted to do – if they are in a position to do so.
That statistic paints a sad picture about many aspects of life. Quite obviously, financial, political and health systems all dictate the length of time that a person lives and there are many places on this globe that have had those aspects sadly neglected. But statistics aren’t all bad. They can show us that positive changes do occur over time. There was a time when the life expectancy gap between the genders of any given nationality was far greater than it is now. One of the major things that created this gap was simply war and global conflicts. Having not had a war (on a global scale) for more than half a century it has seen the difference in life expectancy between genders shrink to four years on average. In the United Kingdom that gap was six years as recently as the early 80’s.
That’s a comfort especially as I am two years the junior of my betrothed. Probably the best statistic though is the overall life expectancy as it has changed since 1950. In the Western world we have had ten years added on to our lives since 1950 (life expectancy was 66 years at that time). That will only increase with the advent of new medical discoveries such as the successful treating of an infant with HIV recently. The news is even better when you look at the change in developing countries (41 years to 67 years) and the poorest countries (36 years to 55 years) since 1950. Long may these improvements continue especially in those places where people are counting their lucky stars they got to 40.
Now I’ll probably get in trouble for this next bit but speaking of 40, my beautiful wife celebrates the end of decade number four on Sunday. There was a time when this age caused the wearer to fret and rush about buying sports cars and seek the latest hair replacement treatment. It was a time to rant and rave about the end of youth but it’s quite clear that lives aren’t lived the same way now. 40 is only the beginning for so many people and Janet would be the first to say that is exactly how it feels. I wouldn’t say she is too bothered. And if plans for the next few years come to fruition then I can see her dashing about the globe like the spritely young miss that I first met a decade ago.
As for me well I am looking forward to that magic number and 40 is for those who like to write. There have been a number of writers who were never published until into their forties. William S. Burroughs, Bram Stoker, Anthony Burgess, Frank McCourt, Henry Miller…the list goes on. Even Cormac McCarthy didn’t truly master the art until he reached his sixties. He was seventy three when he won the Pulitzer prize for – The Road. While writers should always have some natural ability from a tender age, it is the gathered life experiences that truly hone and refine their craft. If life begins at forty then there are plenty more experiences yet to be had.