Some reflections on the history of growing older

With coffee cup in hand I sat down on the back porch last Saturday morning, and flipped on the radio.

It was 6 a.m. and the NPR station was broadcasting the news live from the BBC in London. I started to change the station but then heard a guy talking about the science of growing old so I listened in. It was a professor from some university in England, and he was saying that within just a few decades we will have made such extraordinary advances in medical science that doctors will be able to perform repairs, and exchange defective body parts with mechanical substitutes, as easily as a mechanic performs repairs and replaces defective parts on an automobile. The professor claimed that these medical breakthroughs will make it possible to live for centuries, maybe even for 1,000 years.

As I listened and sipped my coffee (I subscribe to the theory that coffee promotes healthy aging), good old Methuselah came to my mind. You will recall, Methuselah was the oldest man that ever lived. He only missed living to be 1,000 by 31 years, which got me to thinking that maybe that British professor is on to something. The Bible doesn’t say what caused Methuselah to finally die, but I’m guessing it really was old age. And it’s probably just as well because, if Methuselah had lived for just seven more years he would have to have spent a year or so floating around in the Arc with his grandson, Noah and his family; not the sort of thing you want to do when you’re 976 years old.

Times were different back then. It seems like everyone lived to be nearly a 1,000 years old. Adam lived to be 930, Noah lived to be 950, Seth lived to be 912, and, of course, Methuselah lived to be 969. The Bible doesn’t say, but if women outlived men back then like they do today, most of the ladies probably lived to be at least 1,000.

Apparently, all the diseases that plague us today were still in the making, no doubt most of which we have managed to bring on ourselves. A good example is the diseases associated with becoming carnivores after the Great Flood. Noah and his kin should have stuck with the vegan diet passed down to them by Adam and Eve, but fruit and vegetables were scarce, and meat was plentiful, and it didn’t take them long to discover that chicken can be finger lick’n good, or to enjoy a grilled sirloin, or leg of lamb. I’m sure they knew better, but that’s the problem with trying to eat a healthy diet – you’re always being tempted to indulge in all those foods that taste good but aren’t. I asked my doctor what foods I should give up to be healthier, and he said, “If it tastes good, don’t eat it.”

Methuselah and his dad, Enoch, may have enjoyed the vegan diet passed down to them by Adam and Eve, but I’m betting that Methuselah did enjoy a good glass, or I should say good gourd, of wine now and then. The exact origin of wine is not recorded, but we do know that Noah planted a vineyard after the Great Flood. Then he made some wine and had a little too much to drink, which seems understandable when you consider the ordeal he had just lived through.

As to the origin of wine, I suspect Adam and Eve had something to do with it. I imagine they picked more grapes than they could eat in one day, so they sat them aside to eat later. When they finally remembered to check on the grapes a few days later, they discovered the grapes had started to ferment. Not wanting to be wasteful, they smashed them up (possibly with their feet in a handmade vat), to make some juice. It tasted good but was more than they could drink at one time, so the poured the rest in a few clay bottles to drink later. And so it was that Eden Vineyards was established.

Now you may feel this sounds just a bit profane, but discovering that wine could be made from grapes was not an evil thing. Even the Apostle Paul recommended a little wine for the stomach’s sake, and modern science has clearly confirmed that good wine enjoyed in moderation can contribute to healthy aging.

Perhaps a few generations hence our great grandchildren will make those discoveries the professor talked about, and it will allow them to reach the ripe old age of 999, instead of only 99.

But I can’t quite get my mind around the idea of having to work until I’m 800 or so before I can retire, so, for now, I’ll just keep enjoying, and being thankful for, each new day.

George Brown is the executive director of Clermont Senior Services.