Blog Harvey A. Friedman Center for Aging

Calculating Your Lifespan: Reflections on “When I’m 64”

Written by Donna Springer, STL Village Member & 2021 When I’m 64 Student

Recently, STL Village class members, along with Washington University students, completed an on-line Lifespan Calculator. The theme of the class, on the third week of the 14-week “When I’m 64” course, was “Your Health.”

The Lifespan Calculator questionnaire included 13 slides, presenting choices such as amount of weekly physical activity, smoking history, servings of fruits and vegetables per day, number of traffic accidents or violations during past three years, seatbelt use, and family history of cardiovascular issues. After entering age, height, and weight, and choosing options on the screens, each person saw that his or her number of  “estimated years”  changed after each answer. Students noted that by toggling options, the number at the top of each screen varied. The estimated lifespan increased after a healthy lifestyle selection, and decreased with an unhealthy lifestyle selection.  One 72 year-old STL Village member was inspired to increase her fruit and vegetable intake, and to increase her weekly amount of exercise after seeing her Estimated Age Years increase from 90 to 100 by choosing different options in those two categories.

‘How long you have already lived is one of the best predictors of how long you may live, “reads the initial slide. “Life expectancy has been increasing for years thanks to growing awareness of personal health maintenance and medical care that keeps on improving”.

“You have calculated your longevity,” reads the final slide.” For more than 160 years, Northwestern Mutual has helped people manage risks and achieve financial security. How could you improve your estimated age? Are you financially prepared to live that long?”

The Lifespan Calculator, formulated by Northwestern Mutual, is available online, and can be shared with friends.

“There are twelve Villagers taking the course this year,” said Natalie Galucia, MSW, Center for Aging Manager & course Super AI. “This is the sixth year for this course, and Villagers have participated from the very beginning. The instructors knew if they were going to teach a class about aging that they would need older adults in the class, as well, to provide their perspective on the weekly topics. (Professor) Nancy Morrow-Howell’s connection to the Village made a natural fit for Villagers to be those students who would participate.”

“In the first years of the course a few Villagers would attend each class. Now, we feel it is important that all ten-plus Villagers attend each class, and starting in 2019, have also included Village students in the weekly discussion section along with the weekly classes.”

“When I’m 64” is part of the Beyond Boundaries program at Washington University, which provides interdisciplinary courses for freshmen, and is supported by the Harvey A. Friedman Center for Aging. Three professors from different disciplines co-teach the course: Nancy Morrell-Howell, Brown School of Social Work, Brian Carpenter, Psychological & Brain Sciences, and Susy Stark, Occupational Therapy. Small group discussions complement the Tuesday afternoon classes, which have input from all three disciplines, and are facilitated by graduate students, who also represent the three disciplines. The classes and discussions have adapted to a ZOOM format.

The overall description of the course reads, “Whether you know it or not, you are living in the midst of a revolution that is going to change your personal and professional lives. Although old age may seem a long way off, you will likely live to age 80 or beyond, with a 50% chance of seeing your 100th birthday….This course will give you a competitive edge in understanding how you can harness what is happening to shape your career and lifestyle….you will be introduced to leaders and ideas from many fields — medicine, engineering, architecture, public health, social work, law, business, art, and psychology — focused on the issues of our aging society. There will also be opportunities to tailor the class to your interests through events on and off campus, including movies, lectures, performances, field trips, and community projects. This course will set you on a path to lead the aging revolution and transform the society of tomorrow. “

May Washington University students, and STL Village members, enjoy healthy longevity during their years predicted by the Lifespan Calculator.