The risk of living too long

By Thabang Mapena (Guest Post)

Photo by Abhishek Koli on Unsplash
Photo by Abhishek Koli on Unsplash

It’s funny how our African practices dictate how we should worry and make provisions for living too short. We worry about how we will be towed out of this world; how the tow truck will look like; we even worry about our resting couches, whether they be made out of mahogany or cheap board. To the extreme end, we even worry about the food menu for the sending off day.

The worry about the livelihood of our little angels when we are gone makes us walking corpses with stress; it completely shutters our tear ducts-rightfully so. We want to at least leave our loved ones behind with fewer troubles – at least financial troubles.

The culture of making provisions for when we are gone has finally reached our shores. People are slowly now making monthly contributions to cater for the livelihood of their loved ones should the tow truck arrive impromptu-as it always does. The life cover product graph is on the ascendance now and insurance people (me included) are smiling.

Making provisions for the loved ones is good hey…it’s a good practice and very healthy, keeps the high blood pressure doctors away. But what if we were to live too long, what if we get blessed to maybe live until 106th year and outlive our finances? What will happen, how will we live when the grey hair and hairless heads have interrupted our earning capacity and productivity?

I know it’s a common practice in Lesotho and the rest of the African territories to bare many children with the hope that they will hold hands and take good care of us when we are old. It make sense hey…morally, religiously, socially and otherwise…makes a lot of sense. The “I raised you so pay me back” culture makes a lot of sense.

Psychologists have a very hippie phrase for that; they call it the norm of reciprocity.  The norm does work… but now, whenever reality and expectations are involved reality has a funny way of bullying and bulldozing expectations out of the game- when expectations go south, reality goes north. We don’t take care of our elders 100% let alone financially; we don’t. (We are not all bad though; we do it sparingly, the Easter and Christmas visits, the paraffin we buy for them in winter.)

Do we expect our babies to take care of us when we are old in this world of endless opportunities, entertainment and responsibilities for them; in this world of independent and less selfless teens?; the world of instant gratification? It would not be far off from senselessness to answer with a big “Yes” to that.

Yes I work for insurance and yes this could be a boring insurance sales pitch, but ignoring the reality that is living too long and making provisions for the eventuality, is suicidal.