Many are concerned about the aging population, by which they mean an increase in the average age of the people who are currently alive. Many of those who share that concern claim that the cause is the lower number of births. I say the problem is that old age is drawn out for far too long. Which brings me to the current topic, which is how people of various age groups should be viewed when it comes to providing healthcare and what are the expected, acceptable and completely unacceptable levels of unhealthiness among them. In the end, it boils down to how long should an average person currently live and how healthy would it be normal for them to be during their lifespan.
For that purpose, I’ll be using several age ranges: Under three years old, three to ten years old, ten to 50, 50 to 65, 65 to 80, 80 to 100 and over 100 years old. Most of these are likely common, with the exception of ten to 50, which is usually split in four or so. I’m taking it as a single range because I say it makes up a person’s meaningful lifespan and nearly everything significant should happen during that age range for most people. I’m also taking it as a single range because I’m trying to say that a person who just turned ten that day and one who is only a day short of turning 50 should be treated the same from the point of view of providing healthcare.
The first order of business is the priority people in each age group should receive when they ask for medical assistance. Since there are seven age ranges, I will simply use seven priority levels, with level one being the highest and level seven being the lowest. The severity of the situation obviously changes things, as a person in critical condition who requires immediate assistance must have priority over anyone who can wait and those whose problems are extremely small or even nonexistent should wait until all those who really require some sort of specialized help are taken care of, but the priority levels are also to be used to determine the order in which people who require immediate assistance are to be taken care of when there are too many of them to handle at once.
Since I firmly believe in eliminating disease as much as possible through genetics, children with an above average risk of health problems obviously shouldn’t be born. However, as some may slip past such filters or some serious illnesses may reveal themselves only after birth, children under three should only have priority level four, which should be enough to support those who are in good health but also enforce the harsh but correct concept that those who can’t survive their first years without specialized help shouldn’t survive at all. Priority level three is for those aged three to ten, who have partially proven that they weren’t born with serious problems but could still be somewhat under observation in that regard.
People aged ten to 50 should have priority level one, as those are the ones really living the meaningful part of their lives and, by making it past ten under my proposed conditions, have likely already proven that they weren’t born with serious problems. Priority level two is for people aged 50 to 65, who are getting somewhat older but otherwise can still have meaningful lives and a significant impact as long as they’re in good health, so everything should be done to take care of them as long as that doesn’t require delays in addressing the needs of those aged ten to 50.
Then comes a significant drop, with those aged 65 to 80 and 80 to 100 receiving priority levels six and seven, respectively, as quite frankly human bodies are supposed to break down by then and simply prolonging old age after the body already fails makes no sense. Those over 100, however, should be on priority level five, because making it to that age despite receiving very little medical attention for decades proves that their bodies and lifestyles are special indeed, so they deserve a certain amount of help if they truly desire to live even longer.
The above implies that people should be expected to be in very good health at least up to the age of 50. Excepting those born with problems, any person who develops an illness that’s not caused by a virus before the age of 50 should be seen as a failure of society as a whole, unless of course it can be proven that the person in question brought the illness upon themselves without being forced to do so, whether directly or due to lack of convenient access to what they needed to do or use in order to prevent the condition. In such a case, society must pay for its mistake and make sure the person’s health is fully restored as quickly as possible and without the process causing additional discomfort.
Certain health problems are to be expected once a person turns 50, but anything major appearing before the age of 65 without the person being clearly to blame for it should still be seen as a failure of society. Past 65, however, I really see it as normal for human bodies to break down and really think medicine should focus on making sure people are in good health up to that point and not on prolonging old age despite problems.
If someday humans will evolve to a point where it will be normal to be in good health up to 80, 100 or more, then I’ll update the numbers accordingly, but now that’s certainly not the case. Until then, developing major health problems past the age of 65 probably means that you have lived long enough already. If advances in stem cell research or other such methods will end up being capable of fully rejuvenating people, they could and should be used in cases where there really is a point in living further, but that is determined mainly by the person’s brain, which I doubt we’ll be able to replace anytime soon like we can currently replace most other organs.
If a person still has a keen mind and makes good use of it, they really desire to live and their health can be fully restored, measures should probably be taken to ensure that their health really will be fully restored and their life prolonged. But if any of those three conditions is no longer true, especially for people over 65, then they really should be offered a dignified way out instead of wasting resources only to prolong suffering…