It’s an interesting thought that our perspective of age has changed over the years, and that now 69 is very much an ‘only’ age. So, when does regret for an earlier than expected “only” passing turn into a recognition of a ‘good innings’?
For our generation (children of the 70s), it was definitely the general rule that anyone who died over the age of 75 had not died ‘before their time’. Then, that crept up to anyone dying in their 80s, and now it’s almost that anyone not reaching 90 hasn’t quite had the innings they deserved.
Certainly, life expectancy has increased considerably in the UK. According to figures from the Office for National Statistics, the average life expectancy in the UK has risen dramatically from 75.9 years in 1990 to 83 years in 2015.
The figures are much more dramatic if they take into consideration future changes in health care provision and lifestyles (known as cohort figures, rather than the period figures above).
“By 2039 cohort life expectancy at birth is projected to reach 93.9 for males and 96.5 for females. By 2064, cohort life expectancy at birth for females in England is projected to reach 100 years, 99 in the UK, Wales, and Northern Ireland and 98 in Scotland.”
So, what constitutes a ‘good innings’ now will inevitably change for future generations, as life expectancy rises towards three figures as a regular occurrence.
Of course, it’s not actually about ages, but of lives well lived and people much loved. Bowie achieved more fame and recognition than most of us, and influenced generations of music fans and fashionistas. As an actor, musician and style icon, his life was spent in the spotlight, so we know his achievements.
What delights us so much at funerals we sing for are the eulogies that describe ‘ordinary’ lives well lived, that are usually quite extraordinary. Whether the globe-trotting ex-serviceman or the home-loving mother whose door was always open, these too are lives well lived, in different ways, and the age they passed away somehow seems far less important.
Writing a eulogy/tribute can be very hard for families, but we know first-hand the joy, delight and genuine celebration it brings to even the saddest of funerals. For us, and we suspect for many of the mourners too, a good eulogy is a source of inspiration too, spurring us on to make more of our own lives, and steeling us with determination that at “three score years and ten”, our own adventures will be just beginning…