Longevity – the First and Biggest Change

In 1900 the average life expectancy worldwide was 31. In the US it was 46. Today in the US it is 78.8. Life expectancy has been gaining 3 months a year for years now.

There has been a lot of talk about demographics in the US for a while now, and how the younger generation that is coming up is less conservative and less white. What gets lost in these discussions most of the time is that there has been a population explosion at the top of the age pyramid as well and it is a completely different demographic. Retirees from the Boomer era are currently at peak power and numbers – there has never before been a group of seniors this large or this healthy. Ever.

Around the world, this is sending shockwaves through our institutions and systems. There are more people alive today that are over 100 than there has ever been. There are more people in the 70-100 age group now than there has ever been. The sheer numbers is staggering currently there are around 617 million people over the age of 65 worldwide. The largest growth of population worldwide is at the top. Estimates guess that by the year 2050 this will have increased to 1.5 billion people.

Many different forces in collusion have contributed to this rapidly aging population. Better healthcare around the world, vaccines, steep declines in war, crime and violence, rise of better safety features, falls in pollution and disease, faster emergency response, better medications, better food diversity and availability, the availability of birth control, the shift in employment from agricultural jobs, better technology, migration from rural areas to cities – all have contributed. There is no single factor but many all rises in concurrence with each other, all affecting the changes in population growth in different unpredictable ways.

As the population ages it changes the culture. The whole world culture has been affected by life spans changing around the world. Life expectancy has changed marriage and people’s views of marriage – as people age, and as aging becomes the expected outcome for more and more people it also gives rise to a new problem – people that married when the average length of marriage was significantly shorter who are now married to someone for decades longer than they expected to be. It is no wonder the Boomers lead in divorce rates; they are the generation that saw this change the most. The Boomers are on track to be the most divorced generation ever (Xer’s and Millennials are less likely to divorce than their predecessors, but most believe this is because on the average they marry older).

As more elderly live longer lives, the percentage of children vs. the percentage of elderly creep upward. Worldwide children are being born at a rate of 2.5 per woman. Currently those who are over the age of 60 outnumber children by just one percent (19% to 18% of worldwide population) but this number is expected to climb. Worldwide adults outnumber children by an average of 4 to 1. This matters because the wider the gap in population between the number of adults and the number of children the less tolerance and less spending the world wants to do for children. Do you fund the elementary school or do you fund Medicare? Well – who votes?

Why did the Boomers change marriage so much? Likely its simply that they entered marriage with an expectation that didn’t pan out – they entered expecting to be married for 35-40 years. They didn’t plan on 70. The world changed. They changed. In that tumult of change, many decided to go their separate ways.  This is neither an excuse for them nor a condemnation – the 3x married Donald Trump is in many ways emblematic of the generation, opinionated and loud, with little stability – this is how the generation will be remembered. But before we are too harsh on them, remember that the world changed drastically in their generation – and almost constantly. It is too soon to suppose we Xer’s and Millennials (I am right between the two and one or the other depending on what graphs are used) will fare better.

Because it appears that in terms of longevity and possible change, the world is just getting started. What will be the result of all this change in demographics? The truth is, we have no idea.






The Medicine Cabinet

When I first started traveling, it seemed everywhere I went I learned something new that I should put in the medicine bag for the trip. Hopefully most of these you won’t need, and hopefully shouldn’t have to use more than one or two on each trip 😉 but for as long as people have been taking to the road, new environments have led to days missed while we are recuperating from our trips. The good news is the more you travel, the more your body seems to adjust to life on the road and the less these become as necessary for you – even so take them a long – you never know when someone in your group might need them!

  • Stomach medicines – Pepto-bismo, Immodium, and laxatives for when the tummy problems are over, don’t leave home without them! I will write more on this later.
  • Allergies – Benadryl, Sudafed, Allegra (or whatever daily allergen medication you prefer) and though hopefully you won’t need it but can be life saving if you have it – an epi-pen. You never know what new allergy you may have or someone else may have in a new location, and fast treatment is essential. The epi-pen especially or a Benadryl spray are really essential. Allergies from who-knows-what can be debilitating fast! Even if you have never had a reaction before to anything ever. I had one in Nagasaki, Japan and still have no idea what brought it on. Antihistamines are a must!
  • Sunblock and Aloe-Vera – even if you think you won’t need it – I thought I couldn’t get a burn in Mongolia based on the location. We’ll just say, I was wrong!
  • Headache medicine – headaches can come on from atmospheric changes, pollution, accidental dehydration and an assortment of other incidents that we never see coming. Have it just in case!
  • Rehydration packets and Airborne – both of which are very essential in regaining strength after a bout of illness.
  • Herbal sleeping medications – insomnia hits hard in travel. There are many causes – new places, new experiences, mind racing and the jet lag that plagues travelers that cross time zones. Even a couple of time zones can throw your internal clock into confusion. If you need something stronger consult with your doctor for something non-addictive, it’s good to have something along just in case! Good rest also prevents your immune system from breaking down, so take what you need to ensure a good nights sleep, including eye-masks and ear plugs if necessary!
  • Usual Prescription medications – and whatever your doctor suggests for the region. You should also make sure your immunizations are up to date. Most of your prescriptions will need to be in a clear plastic bag and should be shown to the security at the airport in many countries – read up on the rules before you go, every country has different regulations.
  • Preventative Supplements – odorless garlic pills, probiotics and Emergency packets will help keep your immune system stronger and less likely to be hit hard with disease. It will also help you to recover faster. In this category include mosquito repellent, as mosquito borne diseases can be among the worst you can come down with!

Have a safe and healthy journey! Don’t worry too much about disease, don’t let the fear of them stop you either from traveling or from trying new things!

Update: I forgot an important one! I have a pretty strong stomach, so this sort of hangs out in my bag, but Dramamine is essential for motion sickness!



I always carry a pashmina in my backpack. I carry this instead of a jacket for many reasons – a pashmina is much more functional – a nice one can be dressed up or down, carried in a purse or looped through the straps without it ever affecting your look. But there are other uses too, I’ll list the ways I used mine on my trips through Thailand.

  1.  As a pashmina – restaurants get cold sometimes and you need one! This is the most common use.
  2. As a blanket on the low cost Nok Air or other cheap airlines that don’t give you blankets!
  3. As a pillow when I just wanted to rest for a couple minutes during car ride from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai. I didn’t have to dig out my bulkier travel pillow.
  4. As a make-shift skirt as my shorts made me to0 immodest to go in one of the temples in Bangkok.
  5. On the train as buffer top-sheet – Thai trains are always too cold and cleanliness, well – I thought my pashmina was probably cleaner! (This also works in hostels!)
  6. As a makeshift towel on the ferry out to Koh Samui – I hadn’t brought a beach towel, and wasn’t wet, so this worked just as well to sit out on the deck and get some sun!
  7. As a bag – you can tie stuff up in it coming back from the night markets (including new pashminas – which I bought too many of the last trip to Thailand – you really don’t need more than one or two!)
  8. To dress up an outfit for a nice dinner. (Though you should probably launder it first however if you have been using it for some of the other uses that I have listed!)

What do you think? Have I left anything out?

A “Real” Book-

“Real” vs. eBooks
Posted on June 27, 2011 by Joy Felix

I’ve had a Kindle for about a year. A lot of people I know are still hesitant about entering the whole e-book world. I can understand – I wasn’t sold on the idea until about a year and a half ago. Around December of 2009, I thought I would give it a go and downloaded the Kindle application on my iPhone. It opened a brand new world – there was no going back.

What fueled the change? Well – I live in Japan, but I’m American. I still want to read all the bestsellers and books that I enjoyed while in the States. I’m also a teacher and if I am reading up on a book that I want to use for a lesson, then I want it NOW, I don’t want to wait 10-14 days for it and pay extra for shipping. I can’t just run out to the local Barnes & Noble. There isn’t one for 2390 miles (I think the closest is Honolulu anyway – correct me if I am wrong). I could take a whole library to Mongolia for six weeks last summer, and it didn’t take up any more space than the size of the Kindle. For travel, ebooks are a godsend!

Now the main argument I hear most of the time is “It doesn’t look/smell/feel like a real book.” This is true. It’s lighter, you don’t lose your page and you don’t have to worry about papercuts – but that aside – it begs a different, deeper question.

What is a REAL book. Why does it have to be paper?

I wonder how many tribal scholars back in the day thought that the younger generation was going to pot because rather than memorizing and quoting the folklore there was suddenly these clay tablet things. Then when leather came along, there were probably the elite of the past that felt it wasn’t as durable as clay and snubbed it. Then paper! Oh, how thin and easily torn! (This is Joy’s theoretical retelling of history……not to be taken as historical fact of course…..) You probably still know some old-timers that want hardcover books still rather than that annoying paperback.

The point is, the ebook is just the latest in the history of humanity’s history of preserving content. You eventually forget the platform that it is delivered in and get swept away in what really matters – the story or message that the book was written to convey. If the platform is distracting – we live in an age of many options, choose the one you like best. They are all “real” books though. The content is the same, no matter what format you may choose to read them in.

I think what the eBook industry has done is redefine our expectations of what a book is. For people who travel often though, the e-reader technology could not be more opportune. The days of carrying five heavy textbooks and the weight they took in my suitcase is finally gone. 10.3 ounces in my backpack or carry-on is far more easy to manage. For anyone who travels and travels often, celebrate the advent of the e-reader!