Will 90 Become The New 60?

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As our lifespans have increased, so too have our active years. Can that go on?

Immortality: Trust us, you wouldn’t like it.

It’s a comforting message, in a sour-grapes sort of way. It sounds wise and mature, suggesting that we put aside childish dreams and accept once and for all that there can be no vital Veg-O-Matic that slices mortality and dices infirmity. Gerontologists like it, being particularly eager to put on a respectable front and escape the whiff of snake oil that clings to the field of life extension.

In 1946 the newly founded Gerontological Society of America cited, in the first article of the first issue of its Journal of Gerontology, the need to concern ourselves to add “not more years to life, but more life to years.” The dictum was famously sharpened 15 years later by Robert Kennedy when he told the delegates at the first White House Conference on Aging “We have added years to life; it is time to think about how we add life to years.” Political theorist and futurist Francis Fukuyama was particularly eloquent but hardly alone when he warned two decades ago that if we maintain our obsession with extending life at all costs, society may “increasingly come to resemble a giant nursing home.”

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Around the same time noted aging researchers S. Jay Olshansky and Bruce Carnes wrote in ominous tones that we were treading into the realm of “manufactured survival time,” warning that “this success has been accompanied by a rise in frailty and disability in the general population.1 This is a consequence that neither the medical community nor society was prepared for.” A celebrated article by epidemiologist E.M. Gruenberg in 1977 bemoaned the “failures of success”: “at the same time that persons suffering from chronic diseases are getting an extension of life, they are also getting an extension of disease and disability.”

This message is particularly dire if lifespans rise over extended periods of time—which they have done. In 1936 Louis Dublin, the chief actuary of Metropolitan Life teamed up with the esteemed mathematical demographer Alfred Lotka, to calculate the maximum life expectancy theoretically possible. They came up with a limit of 69.93 years. This limit was exceeded by women in Iceland five years later, by American women in 1949, and by American men in 1979. Life expectancies have been increasing at a steady rate of 3 months per year for the past 175 years, and on average, expert calculations of the maximum possible human lifespan have been exceeded an average of five years after being made. In some cases, they had already been overtaken by events somewhere in the world at the time they were issued.

But what if long lifespans don’t necessarily mean more years of disability? At the turn of the present century George C. Williams, celebrated evolutionary theorist of aging, attacked what he termed the “Tithonus error.” Tithonus, son of a nymph, lover of a goddess, was granted the boon of eternal life. But the further gift of eternal youth was unattainable. Frail, bent, and suffering he shriveled at last into a cricket. Williams’ argument was almost a trivial one, from the perspective of evolutionary biology: The very aged are rare, hence there is unlikely to have been any evolutionary pressure to shape the timing of the end of life, in the way that the timing of early development has been shaped. What we see as the “natural lifespan” is simply a balance between the wear of daily life and the limited ability of repair mechanisms to undo it fully. Shifting the balance, either by increasing the rate or efficiency of repair, or by reducing the rate of damage, must surely stretch out the whole process. Actually, it should do even better than that: The end stage, where most of our suffering is found, ought to be the least susceptible to extension, since it requires maintaining the function of an organism that is failing on multiple levels. This is consistent with the observation that, while mortality rates have been falling at all ages, the pace of progress has been slowest at advanced ages. Youth, according to this argument, should take up a greater portion of our lifespan over time. In 1980 the medical researcher James Fries called this process “compression of morbidity.”

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http://nautil.us/issue/46/balance/will-90-become-the-new-60-rp

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The Dark Town That Built A Giant Mirror

(Credit: Getty Images)

A Norwegian town shrouded in shadow for half the year has found an ingenious way to get a bit of sunlight. But why go to such extreme measures? As Linda Geddes discovers, the Sun has powerful effects on our minds and bodies – and it changes us when it’s absent.

By Linda Geddes From Mosaic

The inhabitants of Rjukan in southern Norway have a complex relationship with the Sun. “More than other places I’ve lived, they like to talk about the Sun: when it’s coming back, if it’s a long time since they’ve seen the Sun,” says artist Martin Andersen. “They’re a little obsessed with it.” Possibly, he speculates, it’s because for approximately half the year, you can see the sunlight shining high up on the north wall of the valley: “It is very close, but you can’t touch it,” he says. As autumn wears on, the light moves higher up the wall each day, like a calendar marking off the dates to the winter solstice. And then as January, February and March progress, the sunlight slowly starts to inch its way back down again.

Rjukan was built between 1905 and 1916, after an entrepreneur called Sam Eyde bought the local waterfall (known as the smoking waterfall) and constructed a hydroelectric power plant there. Factories producing artificial fertiliser followed. But the managers of these factories worried that their staff weren’t getting enough Sun – and eventually they constructed a cable car in order to give them access to it.

When Martin moved to Rjukan in August 2002, he was simply looking for a temporary place to settle with his young family that was close to his parents’ house and where he could earn some money. He was drawn to the three-dimensionality of the place: a town of 3,000, in the cleft between two towering mountains – the first seriously high ground you reach as you travel west of Oslo.

(Credit: Olav Gjerstad/Flickr/CC BY 2.0)

Rjukan sits at the base of a valley in in southern Norway (Credit: Olav Gjerstad/Flickr/CC BY 2.0)

But the departing Sun left Martin feeling gloomy and lethargic. It still rose and set each day, and provided some daylight – unlike in the far north of Norway, where it is dark for months at a time – but the Sun never climbed high enough for the people of Rjukan to actually see it or feel its warming rays directly on their skin.

As summer turned to autumn, Martin found himself pushing his two-year-old daughter’s buggy further and further down the valley each day, chasing the vanishing sunlight. “I felt it very physically; I didn’t want to be in the shade,” says Martin, who runs a vintage shop in Rjukan town centre. If only someone could find a way of reflecting some sunlight down into the town, he thought. Most people living at temperate latitudes will be familiar with Martin’s sense of dismay at autumn’s dwindling light. Few would have been driven to build giant mirrors above their town to fix it.

Dark place

What is it about the flat, gloomy greyness of winter that seems to penetrate our skin and dampen our spirits, at least at higher latitudes? The idea that our physical and mental health varies with the seasons and sunlight goes back a long way. The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Medicine, a treatise on health and disease that’s estimated to have been written in around 300 BCE, describes how the seasons affect all living things. It suggests that during winter – a time of conservation and storage – one should “retire early and get up with the sunrise… Desires and mental activity should be kept quiet and subdued, as if keeping a happy secret.” And in his Treatise on Insanity, published in 1806, the French physician Philippe Pinel noted a mental deterioration in some of his psychiatric patients “when the cold weather of December and January set in”…

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http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20170314-the-town-that-built-a-mirror-to-catch-the-sun

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A Night of BDSM for Newbies

by Jessica Ogilvie

L.A.’s Club Awakening is a live-action Kink 101

The orgasmic wailing is coming from my left.

A barefoot woman swathed in a black fishnet body stocking is handcuffed to a St. Andrew’s cross, her back toward me. Her silky brown hair is gathered in a low, loose bun, the stocking exposing her naked body through its cheesecloth-like holes. With every thwack of the flogger’s tentacles across her cream-colored back, she howls in ecstasy.

We’re in a dark room with black walls, gray carpet and several other pieces of kink-themed furniture. Outside, about 100 people mingle, wandering at will into other rooms just like this one. The labyrinth building is called Sanctuary Studios, a space where L.A.’s BDSM community can come to play. But tonight’s event, Club Awakening, is slightly different than other parties held here: It’s geared specifically toward welcoming newbies to the world of fetish.

“I wanted to create someplace where people could come and play, [and] if there’s something you want to try, you can,” says Jenn Masri, an L.A.-based marriage and family therapist who created Club Awakening a year ago. “It provides a little less of a shocking atmosphere.”

Masri got the idea for Club Awakening after teaching BDSM classes for rookies for several years. She instructs students on concepts like consent, safe words and terminology. She says one question that comes up consistently is, “Where can I go for my first party?”

Four newb-friendly booths scattered throughout Sanctuary Studios allow attendees to try hands-on play — e.g., spanking; crops, canes and paddles; flogging; and ropes. A fifth surprise booth has included more extreme offerings such as fire cupping and light knife play. The event has been packed every month since its debut, including the night I attend.

The event is monthly and generally well-attended. This night in mid-February isn’t any different — despite its being at the peak of the worst rainstorm L.A. has seen in years, the type of foul weather that usually renders Angelenos unable to leave their houses at all, let alone drive somewhere in the dark. But once I check my coat and enter the club’s inner sanctum, I find myself amid a throng of dry, happy and, occasionally, nude or nearly nude people.

Masri has linked me up with Pam, a 47-year-old data department manager from Orange County who has been exploring “the scene,” as it’s colloquially known, for about six months. Pam discovered the scene through a friend just as her 18-year marriage was coming to an end. “I was looking for something,” she says, and “the more I read, the more I got interested.”

Her story, I find, isn’t unusual: Leave an unhappy marriage, enter BDSM. Masri herself has a similar history. “I didn’t get involved until I was out of a 17-year, vanilla marriage,” she says. “Someone I dated did a couple kinky things, and I was like, ‘That was fun, I want to do more of it!’”

Pam has been to Club Awakening, she estimates, five or six times. “I love this event,” she says. “You can try something new, and you can meet new people.”

Around 5-foot-6-inches, Pam is dressed for the evening in a blue-gray tunic top, tight black pants and low-heeled mules. Her lips are painted red, as are her toenails; her shoulder-length, dirty blonde hair is collected into a low ponytail, and she wears delicate amethyst earrings that dangle into the shape of flower petals. We were originally going to explore the event as a pair, but last week, Pam met Jeremy, a 48-year-old dominant and her date for the evening. Much taller than Pam, Jeremy has been in the scene for several decades. He wears coke-bottle glasses and sports a scruffy salt-and-pepper beard, gray-blue button-down and black slacks.

For the first hour, the three of us stand around a cocktail table and chat. It’s an alcohol-free event, so the bar is stocked with six different kinds of soda: Cactus Cooler, Cherry Pepsi, 7 Up, Mountain Dew, root beer and — amusingly — Squirt. It’s also a potluck. A folding table is decorated with homemade platters of food, including frosted lemon cake and pink sugar cookies with Hello Kitty emblems at their center; plastic tubs of cookies from Trader Joe’s; and a bowl with single-serving bags of chips: Spicy Cheese Doritos, Chili Cheese Fritos, Cheeto Puffs and Ruffles…

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https://melmagazine.com/a-night-of-bdsm-for-newbies-fbcc4ecce8d2#.1o4m4hpq4

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