‘100+’ offers depth, fascination, but not light reading

By Terri Schlichenmeyer

Every year, there’s another candle.
You remember a time when you got excited about it. Another flame on your birthday cake meant that you were getting big, growing up, not a baby anymore. Each candle was one year closer to Big Kid status.
Then one day, you stopped counting candles. Who needed to be reminded about growing older, anyhow?
But what if a single cake wasn’t enough to hold all the birthday candles you’d need? Could it be possible to need one more cake – or two? In the new book “100+: How the Coming Age of Longevity Will Change Everything, From Careers and Relationships to Family and Faith” by Sonia Arrison, you’ll find out.
For as long as humans have been dying, humanity has searched for ways to rationalize it. Mythology and religion are filled with immortals, for instance. Literature gave us Dr. Faust, Dr. Frankenstein, struldbrugs and vampires.
But technology is giving us a sort of longevity that our ancestors, with their 42-year lifespans, could only dream about.
Modern medical and technological advances now make it possible to regenerate body parts, cure or eliminate disease, slow aging processes, and reverse bodily wear-and-tear. We manipulate genes and mess with cells, which all points to the tantalizing possibility that we can live healthy lives at double our current longevity.
But if reaching 150 or 170 years old is possible – if becoming a centenarian-plus is common – what implications will that have on society?
Not much, says Arrison.
Overpopulation, she says, comes from births, not deaths – and studies prove that the more educated a society is, the lower the birth rate. If we’re living longer, we would have time and desire for that education. Workplaces would change because we’d also have time for second, third, even fourth careers, as well as multigenerational mentoring.
Families would change, too, and reproduction would see a revolution. Spaced-apart children could be 50-70 years younger than their siblings and the “road to adulthood” could lengthen by decades.
Even faith, says Arrison, would change. If there’s no imminent afterlife in our lives, it may “affect our motivation to connect with God …”
So you could stick around to see your great-times-10-grandchildren. But would you want to? If you agree with author Sonia Arrison’s vision of aged utopia, you might … but what she says may alternately terrify you, too.
What Arrison presents here is not found amongst the clouds: She offers rock-solid research and hard facts, along with a few leaps to conclusions that make sense. She’s obviously enthusiastic in what she writes, but there were times when her musings sounded a little too rosy to me and her Land of Milk and Honey seemed like it could quickly curdle and sour. But that’s what I absolutely adore about books like this: They make me think about the possibilities, both good and bad.
Needless to say, “100+” isn’t la-la-light reading; it’s deep and deeply fascinating. If you want something that will tickle your imagination with enticing what-ifs, in fact, then nothing could hold a candle to this book.
Terri Schlichenmeyer has been reading since she was 3 years old and never goes anywhere without a book. She lives in West Salem, Wis., with two dogs and more than 9,500 books.