Ezekiel Emanuel is a healthy 57-year-old in all respects, as his recent hike up Mount Kilimanjaro would suggest. Which is why it might be disconcerting to read his essay in the Atlantic laying out the reasons why he hopes to be dead in 18 years. To Emanuel, 75 is the right age at which to die. "I will have lived a complete life," he writes. He will have seen his grandkids begin their own lives and will have "made whatever contributions, important or not, I am going to make." And, with luck, the inevitable mental and physical declines of old age will not have set in yet. Emanuel rejects what he calls the "American immortal"—the concept that drives people to obsessively exercise, pop vitamins, do mental puzzles, etc., in the hope of cheating death.
Yes, death is a loss, he writes. "But here is a simple truth that many of us seem to resist: living too long is also a loss. It renders many of us, if not disabled, then faltering and declining, a state that may not be worse than death but is nonetheless deprived." Emanuel isn't talking about committing suicide on his 75th birthday, but he says his whole approach to health will change. "I won’t actively end my life. But I won’t try to prolong it, either." No more cancer tests, for example, or even flu shots. Click to read the full, provocative essay, which ends with Emanuel retaining the right to change his mind and write another essay in 18 years arguing for a longer life. "That, after all, would mean still being creative after 75." (Read more old age stories.)