The Theory of Life Tables: the longer you live, the longer you are going to live based on the rules of probability

The Theory of Life Tables: the longer you live, the longer you are going to live based on the rules of probability

18 August, 2017

I take great pride in my ability to socially converse while I scull my daily ¾ cafe latte. I am committed to 3 local cafes so it is an opportunity to change it up a bit, depending on the day. That means I have a great number of familiar faces wherever I go. Skipping chit chat, these faces quickly become acquaintances, we talk directly to the heart of what makes us tick. I want the nitty gritty of their lives, their work and families, dreams and mishaps. Recently, while talking it up with an equally passionate conversationalist, almost a stranger, our chat led to his work as a health consultant. Like any good consultant, Andrew is an articulate communicator but my comprehension was fuzzy, what do consultants do? Does anyone know? I saw this as a great opportunity to talk about my Dad’s health extremes, fitness and diet. He did say health consultant.

Dad is 70 and he’s fit. Until recently he played golf a few times a week and has done for nearly 30 years. He coupled that with a cycling addiction, that has him pedaling his brains out, up and down the coast, for about 60km whenever weather permits. He is kind of in training, he rides with mates for a week throughout Victorian countryside every November, much like a Great Victorian Bike Ride. But, he’d ride anyway, it keeps him active, focussed and agile.

He puts my dreams of fitness at 40 to shame but then, he marries this level of fitness with an average diet at best, I feel good again. From the outside, it looks completely unsustainable yet there he is again, zooming past my window in his lycra!

My Mum does almost all the cooking and she is dedicated to balanced meals, however, Dad’s tastebuds aren’t as adventurous as his cycling endeavours. He opts for takeaway regularly and is more meat than veg oriented. He likes a salty pizza and will gorge on sweets of any variety, anytime.

I explained my unfounded concerns of Dad’s imminent health decline to Andrew, coffee nearly finished. He enlightened me to the theory of life tables. Our life expectancy changes over time, as we overcome each aging era we will inevitably become part of the population that lives a longer life. Governments can predict, using statistics collected through CENSUS data and medical records, life expectancy at any given age. Life expectancy from birth is around 80 years, that’s the average taking into account infant mortality.

If you are 70 that means you nailed your birth and infant growth, charged through school sans fatal disease and developed through your teens without pressing mental health issues leading to suicide. You also, didn't die in a road accident or have parachute failure whilst jumping from a plane, hallucinated for days and came back to tell the story and, hitchhiked in dangerous, foreign countries escaping murderous trappings. You celebrated positive birth outcomes and managed extreme fatigue from childrearing and/or regular all night parties and avoided serious fatal work accidents in the construction and mining sectors. You skipped through your 40’s and 50’s cancer free and memory intact. The longer you live, the longer you are going to live based on the rules of probability.

Andrew told me that Dad will probably live to 100. That is a shock, but 2% of Australians are currently 100 and over, so statistically not surprising. I will be 71, potentially retired and a grandma myself. Nothing like some perspective to have my head turn full circle. This story makes me want to get on my bike and ride for the hills, with Dad of course.

life tables

Dad at 60 post jumping out of a plane with my boyfriend, Danny