What about the future? What can be done? . . .
The essential requirements for their prevention and/or early treatment are, first, that initiative and effort be contributed by the individual. We can give health to no one any more than we can give or buy true respect. Both have to be earned. Health is not a fundamental human right. It is a privilege, and, as a privilege, it entails the equivalent responsibility for its maintenance. Thus, the initiative and effort must be made on the part of the aging individual to maintain his own health. Herein lies the greatest obstacle to full application of existing knowledge. Advice which is not followed is useless. . . .
Whose responsibility is maintenance of health? It is yours and mine. Our greatest hope lies, I feel, in research and education. Medical research will be relatively futile, however, without the backing of broad public or lay education. First is the need to emphasize the importance of individual responsibility. Second, education is needed in how to use, rather than abuse, our endowment of healthy bodies in youth. Third, education should be directed toward preparation for senescence. It is truly extraordinary that though we all are in full agreement that youth must spend some of its time in preparing how to become an adult, it is assumed that preparation for senescence is unnecessary. The number of young adults who give thought to their own future is pitifully small. I was once told by Mr. James, then secretary of the Carnegie Teacher's Annuity and Life Insurance Association, which insures university professors, high-school teachers, and the like, that when they wrote to their policyholders: "Dear Professor So and So, You are due to retire in six months. How would you like your pension fund paid, and can we be of any assistance to you?" 75 per cent of their policyholders replied in this vein: "An exception is going to be made in my case. I have made no plans for retirement; I wouldn't know what to do if it was forced upon me." These replies came from people who are supposed to have foresight and who devote their lives to teaching. I think we should be ashamed of ourselves, and I say 'we' because for twenty years I taught medical students.
Finally, I should like to give you the thought that the longer men live, the more time there is to think; to think is to grow; and to grow is to live.