I want an improved health span, not life span

I probably won’t die of “old age.” More likely, I’ll die of some disease associated with growing older.

For too many of us, health span is reduced by disease, not old age. Many those diseases are preventable, or could be made less deadly through research, but little money is put into cures because old people get them. It’s ageism, pure and simple.

image: Die at your peak

We are living longer but not necessarily better. While the average lifespan of Canadians is 82 years, the health span is only 72 years. That means a lot of seniors live their last 10 years in poor health. In some cases, it’s a life not worth living.

By “health span,” I mean living healthy, independent and strong lives. Health span can be measured of the quality of life that includes: Mind & cognition (processing speed, short term memory); Body (maintenance of muscle mass, functional movement, freedom from pain).

Andrew Steele, biologist and the author of Ageless: The new science of getting older without getting old, told CBC Radio’s Spark:

“Until now, we’ve been treating medicine in this very unsystematic way. So what we could do by understanding these hallmarks is to potentially come up with treatments to intervene in them directly. And that means preventative treatments; treatments can go in earlier and stop people getting ill in the first place (April 29, 2022).”

Researchers who want to improve the quality of life by reducing the diseases of aging are often met with pushback. Critics say that dying of disease is natural and keeping seniors healthy as they age will result in them living longer. The illogical thinking doesn’t escape Andrew Steele:

“Let’s say I had written a book on cancer research and how I think we’re going to cure leukemia in the next 20 years. Nobody would write me an email saying, ‘Hi, Andrew, you know, this cancer research, aren’t you really worried about all these extra people who are going to be surviving cancer and cluttering up the planet’?”

If we want to improve the health of children by reducing disease, why wouldn’t we want to improve the health of everyone?

The answer is ageism. Another guest on the radio show has done research on how positive attitudes on aging can actually improve the health of seniors.

Becca Levy, a psychologist and epidemiologist at Yale University, found that ageism results in more than hurt feelings or discriminatory behavior. It affects physical and cognitive health and well-being in measurable ways and can take years off one’s health span.

So rather than treating aging as a single, inevitable change in our bodies, it’s more like a series of processes brought about by disease. If those processes can be prevented, or even reversed, then the health span of people could dramatically increase, along with being able to live considerably longer.

Life span has increased by improving health span. Better public health measures such as clean water, antibiotics, and vaccines mean we live longer and healthier.

But diseases that develop with aging remain a barrier to improved health span.

To maximize longevity, we need to delay the onset of the three largest killers of humans: cerebrovascular and cardiovascular, cancer, and neurodegenerative. These three causes of death will kill 75% of us.

For me, the ideal would be a health span equal to my life span.

Sports facilities, or any amenities, will attract people to city.

A taxpayer and his money are not soon parted.  So it takes a bold politician to suggest that taxes are a good idea.  That’s just what Mayor Mel Rothenburger did.  He recently quoted a study that says “in fact, there’s evidence to suggest that cities with the highest levels of taxation are, in many cases, the most progressive, healthiest and economically secure.”

  Kamloops

The study is by John M. Eger professor of Public Policy at San Diego State University in California who goes on to say “the successful cities and metro areas of the 21 st century will stimulated by their attractiveness to young, talented people.”

This flies in the face of conventional wisdom that says the way to attract business is to lower taxes.  The trouble with this plan is that other cities also lower taxes in competition.  It quickly becomes a race to the bottom which no one wins.

What brings business is young, talented people.  And what brings people to the city is amenities, like art, music, education, sports, parks, trails, lakes, fishing, golf, and river recreation.

Kamloops already has a unique, natural beauty and a mild, dry climate.  We already have many attractive amenities.  Those include UCC, a good hospital and health facilities, the art gallery, our symphony, professional theatre, and a lively arts scene.

If we attract talented people to Kamloops then business will follow.  And businessmen and women are like the people they hire – – they also look for attractive features in a city.

An example of this “people first” strategy is the move of Nav Canada to Kamloops.  Employees of the Flight Information Centre chose Kamloops as a place to live and that prompted Nav Canada built their new facility here.

Private developers help, but only the city can build the kind of public facilities and common spaces on a scale that make a significant impact.  Businesses can build facilities but they eventually serve the interests of shareholders.  We are the shareholders in Kamloops and public development serves us and our future.

The City of Kamloops hopes to develop the concept of the Tournament Capital of Canada through an ambitious sports complex plan.  Voters will go to the polls on Saturday to decide on borrowing money to build the proposed facilities.

Anything that involves even a modest tax increase is a hard sell.  Taxpayers are suspicious of governments.  There is a sector of voters who feel that governments are conspiring, with wild and harebrained schemes, to take their money.

Kamloopsians, like all British Columbians, have a love-hate relationship with taxes.  According to an Ipsos-Reid poll taken one year ago, two-thirds (67%) of BC residents think they are getting a good value for the taxes they pay to their local municipality.

But when asked how they feel about tax increases for new services or to maintain current ones, they are more ambivalent. Half (47%) said they don’t mind higher taxes, while half (47%) would prefer to maintain taxes even if it meant a reduction in services.

Saturday’s vote is complicated.  It requires a decision on more than spending tax dollars, or attracting talented people with amenities.  Some see the sports complex proposal as a way of developing local athletics and attracting high caliber athletes from across Canada.  For others, it’s seen as part of UCC’s promotion to be known as a university.

The linkage of marketing for the City of Kamloops and UCC produces a powerful message.  UCC already advertises Kamloops as a student-friendly, safe, city.  The sports complex, if approved, would not only attract people to Kamloops, it would attract students to UCC.   It makes sense for Kamloops and UCC to team up on marketing.

The idea of sports compliments a healthy, fit, outdoor lifestyle that Kamloops can rightfully claim.  Even for those who are not involved in sports, fitness has strong appeal for those considering a move to Kamloops.

Prudent tax spending on public facilities is a sensible expenditure.  The use of tax money to build the future of our city is based on sound business principles.  It’s a principle that developers of shopping centers use but on a bigger scale.  First, build an attractive facility that will attract customers.  Business will rent space because customers are coming.

It all starts with attracting people.