HJAR Mar/Apr 2020

34 MAR / APR 2020 I  HEALTHCARE JOURNAL OF ARKANSAS COLUMN POLICY HOW TO LiveWell and Die Fast ALONG THEWAY, we are more likely than our shorter-lived ancestors to accumulate chronic health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, dementia, and chronic pul- monary diseases. As the vast ranks of baby boomers enter their 60s and 70s, these con- ditions are of increasing concern, not only to the people suffering from them, but also to their children, who are faced with dif- ficult decisions about how to care for their aging parents. Allow me to define some terms. Mortality: Death; we are all subject to death, but our mortality has been extended by improvements in care and environmen- tal factors. Morbidity: A diseased state, disability or poor health; in this context, health impaired by conditions that prevent us from doing things we want to do. Quality of life: The degree to which we are able to do things we want to do, unhindered by morbidity. Americans are living much longer than we used to. A child born in the United States in 1900 had a life expectancy of 47.3 years, according to the National Center for Health Statistics; a child born in 2017 has a life expectancy of 78.6 years. Thanks to advances in health care and improvements in environmental factors such as water quality, food safety, and economic stability, we can expect longer lifespans than past generations — even our parents’ generation.