Science Fiction Today – Health Care

HThis is actually not the first time we’ve approached Health Care in a Science Fiction Today post. So I want to try to avoid hitting all the same territory, and instead tackle one of the big health care stories recently: longevity. As in, they’re really starting to think that people are going to be able to live way into the 150+ year range.

And I’ll admit: I haven’t actually read any of the articles. I don’t feel I need to for this. We’re looking to the future – to science fiction. So what does long life look like in science fiction?

Immortality

Really, it’s not often in science fiction (or fantasy) that you see really long-lived, health-repaired people. What you do see are immortals. Generally not many of them, either. Whether it’s the fountain of youth, vampirism, or body-replacing technology, generally only a few can live forever in stories. So the tension is often about how does this long-lived character deal with relationships with mortals?

And whether it’s fantasy and you’re looking at someone like Drizzt Do’Urden, who has watched all of the non-elves in his life passing away (after over 20 books), or a science fiction character like The Doctor, we get to watch the heartbreak as they move on from those closest to them. However, these are naturally long-lived or immortal characters.

So when it’s science augmenting life, we see all sorts of methods used. Cloning, cryogenic freezing, body replacement. Virtual lives like in Surrogates. And what these things seem to have in common? They’re for the rich. It’s not what everyone does. And the other thing the rich have? Enough money to afford to live for that long.

How Much Retirement Do We Need?

What scares me is not the sad, sad stories of characters living forever, watching mortals die around them. I’ve read Tuck Everlasting. It was great.  And not the thought of the rich living for ages – after all, if they live that long, it’s hard to pass on their fortunes to their heirs, right? That could get interesting.

The frightening option instead for me is that science gets us to a point where a great many of us are living to the mid-100’s. Still aging. Hey look, I’ve finally gotten to health care! Because what will life look like in this scenario?

What sorts of health devices will we need, mobility devices? New tests? And my heading is a really good point – how much money are we going to need to work and save up if we spend half of our lives or more in retirement?

Or will we be in retirement – or working? What will work look like if we’re working over 100 years old?

I genuine don’t know that I have the answers, and I’m not thinking of science fiction examples to answer the question. So I’ll ask you – what do you think we’ll do? And, do you know any science fiction stories that explore this topic? Discuss in the comments below!

This post is part of the April A to Z Challenge, and also part of our occasional series on Science Fiction Today. You can read an explanation of both here. We are striving to keep these posts short, and know that we have not covered every example or angle – plenty of room for discussion!

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22 responses to “Science Fiction Today – Health Care

  1. I can’t think of anything worse than living forever and, given a choice, I would grow old gracefully rather than prolonging my life through technology! I think many people are obsessed with age, of living longer, looking younger. Some would go to great lengths for eternal life. The only sci-if that springs to mind at this moment is Jupiter Ascending, and the gods in that story were so obsessed with prolonging life they harvested humans! I watched a recent Supernatural episode (almost finished my review on the show) and a character in that ate body parts to stave off his cancer – he didn’t care how many he killed as long as he got to live a little longer!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh wow, how did I forget Jupiter Ascending? That was of course the big motivation of the bad guys. Although, they also believed in genetic reincarnation, so you got both – long life, and coming back. And again, it was the rich who got to live on – not the average. And they did so on the backs of killing whole planets. So yeah, generally not good…

      I was also reminded of an upcoming movie this morning when the trailer was playing… The Age of Adaline. She’s immortal as well, and they take the romance approach to look at her loves over time as she outlives them. And like so many of the stories, it’s not just long life, but long youth. So again, not a story where you’re growing old and living… anyway, trailer!

      Liked by 2 people

  2. heatherjacksonwrites

    The idea of living longer appeals to me because I feel I’m a late bloomer and will need the time to do everything I want to do in life! However, this all depends on having a decent quality of life. Will the doctors learn how to keep the arthritis from crippling my joints? Will they figure out how to cure dementia? Stuff like that.

    Also, the YA novel STARTERS takes place in a future where all the middle-aged people have died, and there are just kids called starters and the elderly, most of whom are over 100 and live to almost 200, called enders. In the book the enders have a way to inhabit the bodies of the young – they take over their brains through some complicated technology and live life as a young person in that young body. Super creepy.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ah ha, an example! That novel sounds interesting as it seems to somewhat cover what I am looking for – a story about people who are living longer but getting older still – and the traditional sort of story, where the old are preying on the young in a creepy way. Will have to give that a look 🙂 … which I just did. Looks like there is a sequel now, “Enders.” Makes sense!

      I think if we do start living that long science and medicine (health care) will NEED to solve some of today’s elderly problems, like you mention. So in some ways, this is looking at life after cancer, after Alzheimer’s, after dementia and such. Of course, it’s more likely that some but not all diseases/disorders/conditions could be solved – I wonder which will happen first?

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  3. Hm. The main examples I can think of involve feeding off others somehow, like in Jupiter Ascending. Not sure what to make of that.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s like we as a society have not thought about what this would really truly be like or look like. Or feel like. Right? Hmmm… the elderly as characters in a LARP-based Purge dystopia… 😉

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      • Possibly the concept has been so far out of reach for so long that it’s just never come up, and the closest thing we have is legends of vampirism.

        I have more ideas about that, lemme run over to Facebook. 😉

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Seeing as Japan has the second highest life expectancy in the world, I think the retirement thing is a misnomer. People “retire” at 65, but take up farming or other part-time work. And when they’re too old for paying work, they start volunteering. And they are crazy healthy. I had been teaching a student for three years before I found out her age. She travels to different countries every month, hiking the Swiss Alps, etc…. she’s -78- years old! I was floored!

    It’s all about the seaweed, I think, haha…

    Liked by 1 person

    • I too have found many healthy older folks of late – something that was not part of my younger life, as the life expectancy in my family has not been so high… And yes, volunteering, gardening or farming, and of course travel are all the sorts of things you see.

      But in the States at least you also hear about people having to go back to work because their money has run out – working at Wal-Mart as greeters, for instance. Of course, many work by choice – I know some who work for a few hours a week at Home Depot for the employee discount, so they can save on doing their projects.

      Especially as a geek, a reader, a gamer, a traveler – I can see all the sorts of things I would do in retirement, and even a great many that could be done with decreased health. However, the ability to afford living all that time? That is a different question!

      Liked by 1 person

      • The hope is that maybe by the time we are living to be one and a half centuries old, we will have moved out of the Capitalist system… I’m not a Socialist, but I do think at some point society is going to outgrow the system we’re currently in… we have to, with the amount of automation we’re introducing into our lives.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Then we get into Robot slave stories! But that might have to wait for the letter R… 😉

          That does make me wonder if more of the sorts of stories I’m wondering about here don’t exist in English-speaking-capitalist-science-fiction… if they’re perhaps all European stories or elsewhere. That could be the reason!

          EDIT: since the capitalist idea of the future is the rich living a long time, apparently.

          Liked by 1 person

  5. I hope if we are able to extend life, that we are also able to extend the quality of it. Personally I think it would be amazing if we lived as long as we did now, but didn’t have the body breakdown that we have to deal with as we age.

    If we lived longer, I’m not sure what would happen to us personality-wise. How urgently would we tackle challenges if we could live a long time? On the other hand, if we lived a long time, we’d maybe be more motivated to deal with things like climate change, since we’d be alive to experience all the effects.

    Thought-provoking post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • That is a really good point – I remember a lot of people in my generation having the attitude that the environment or the national debt are just being left for us to deal with. Would we think the same and would choices be the same if we lived longer?

      And the quality of long life is important – we’ll have to see if the two things really do develop at the same time!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Pingback: Science Fiction Today – Libraries | Comparative Geeks

  7. Pingback: Science Fiction Today – Robots | Comparative Geeks

  8. As with Holly’s/my Chappie reference on I… If we were all in robot bodies, healthcare would be different. 😉 Although it raises the question of insurance for robot parts, warranties, things like that…

    Liked by 1 person

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