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Ltryptophan's avatar

In which of these scenarios would you rather find yourself?

Asked by Ltryptophan (10724points) September 29th, 2013


You are 90 years old. Your life has been profoundly happy, and full, you are healthy, and experiencing no unexpected discomfort for your age. However, in one year you will die. Your memories are exceedingly beautiful, and you are able to look back on them fondly with pride, and contentment.


You are 40 years old. Your life has been profoundly happy, and full, you are healthy, and experiencing no unexpected discomfort for your age. However, in one year you will die. Your memories are great, but exactly the same as the 90 year old sans 50 years. You are very healthy, and have everything you’ve ever hoped for. The world is your oyster.


In both scenarios you do not know how long you have left to live. To be brief, you are putting a value on a long life well lived, or a short life with the energy of maturity and youth. The main question stands as which of these lives would you choose to place yourself in.

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25 Answers

livelaughlove21's avatar

The first one. An extra 50 years of happy memories – what’s the downside? My great grandmother died at 90 and she was still kicking it before the cancer got her. You didn’t mention the 90-year-old being ill, so I don’t see why I’d choose to not experience more happiness and have already lived a long life.

SavoirFaire's avatar

They’re both good lives from the perspective of the one living them. But I’d take A, in part because it would be much easier on my loved ones.

poisonedantidote's avatar

On a totally selfish angle, it would not matter, both are equal. If anything, B is probably a little bit better, because you have packed more in to a shorter time, so it has probably been a more thrilling and more of a challenge than the 90 year old one.

jaytkay's avatar


“No unexpected discomfort for your age” is relative.

Ltryptophan's avatar

It’s a tough question for me. My head says B.

Judi's avatar

I’d’ve dead already of I chose 40! I hope to be 120 and still dancing.

Sunny2's avatar

Definitely A, although I can’t say I was profoundly happy all the time. If I had died at forty, I would have missed my kids growing up, a LOT of traveling, singing at Carnegie Hall and several concert halls in Europe, singing and dancing on stage myself, going back to school, and a lot of experiences that have made my life since 40 extraordinary. And I’m not done yet!

Ltryptophan's avatar

Feel free to answer, and share your feelings, but I just want to direct you to the idea that you are stepping into a life that will last one year. Your quality of life will be better at 40, you just won’t have 50 years of awesome memories you could’ve chosen to have during that year, I think adult grandkids, even great grandkids, etc., is a reasonable expectation of station for a 90 y.o. That is very significant, you would’ve seen your family grow up, and you would know your children so well (if children would be part of your ideal 90 y.o. lifestyle for comparisons sake)

flutherother's avatar

I would go for A for the reason @SavoirFaire gave.

ccrow's avatar

Definitely the first choice, and not just because I’d already have kicked it if I chose the second… I enjoy knowing my kids as adults, and I enjoy my grandkids… if I was 90 I could reasonably hope to know some great-grands as well! And yeah, maybe ‘unexpected discomfort’ is relative, but IMO ‘discomfort’ is only nuisance level, OP didn’t say ‘pain’ after all. I already have discomfort. I don’t like that it’s all downhill from here, but I’m not ready to shuffle off yet.

augustlan's avatar

A, for sure. I’d have been dead for 6 years now, otherwise, and would never get to see my children through college. I like watching them become adults, and would hate to leave them at such an important part of their lives.

Pachy's avatar

B, because I believe younger people are generally better respected and treated in U.S. society than the elderly regardless of how healthy they are. For example…

augustlan's avatar

@Pachyderm_In_The_Room Ugh, people like that guy in the article make me want to puke. There’s just no need to treat anyone like that, elderly or not. Now I need to kick something.

Pachy's avatar

Agreed, @Augustlan. Remember at the start of “The iron Lady” how the elderly Margaret Thatcher was treated at the grocery shop?

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

Okay, I’m a horndog. Does my Johnson work at 90? I’m standing in for ucme.

anniereborn's avatar

I’d pick A also. I don’t have children, but I have lots of nieces and nephews. I’d like to see them grow up.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

Oh screw it, you know I don’t have any class at times. Floyd and Mabel, the 90 year old couple are going at it one night. Floyd says “Mabel you’re flat as hell and tight as ever.” Mabel says “Floyd, get off my back.”

SavoirFaire's avatar

@Adirondackwannabe For the sake of argument, let’s say it stopped working in your 70s. Would you want the extra three decades, or would you rather just drop dead at 41 without them?

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@SavoirFaire I have some amazing friends and family. It can fall off for all I care, (which reminds me of another bad joke), I like watching them grow up. I’ll take what I get.

zenvelo's avatar

A because I know, being way past 40, that it’s a lot better. Even the shit that has happened the last 15 years is a lot better than the alternative.

dxs's avatar

If you did what one can do in 90 years in only 40 years, then you must’ve rushed your life. Enjoying life is more important. I’d take letter A. The downside is that I’d risk outliving people.

whitenoise's avatar

My understanding of the 40 year old and the 90 year old is that neither knows they’ll die in a year, but without a doubt, they will. Therefore, from an objective point of view, in both cases one has 1 year left to go.

This is actually an interesting question from an economical point of view. The quality of life of the 40 year old will likely be better.

Anyways… choice is easy… would you rather have 1 year as a 40 year old or 1 year as a ninety year old? ... I’ll go for my forties. (And I’d be dead by now.)

Ltryptophan's avatar

@whitenoise you have it right. Of course, at 90 there is the expectation that death could be any time despite health. A reasonably mature 40 would likely also believe that death could come unexpectedly, but not with the surety of nearing the extremes of human aging like a 90 certainly would.

This is either a benefit or curse for either age. I apologize to anyone in their golden years that my comments might cause discomfiture.

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