Lang may yer lums reek!

Douglas Anderson reminisces on the past and looks at what 2018 might bring

When I grew up in Scotland, New Year (or Hogmanay) was a big festival. Perhaps even bigger than Christmas, at least in the vigour with which it was celebrated.

29 December 2017

One thing that stuck in my memory from my first trip as an impressionable teenager to the boozy throng at the Tron Church on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh is the phrase, “lang may yer lums reek”. This traditional Scottish New Year’s greeting literally means “long may your chimney smoke”. It is used to wish family and friends a healthy and long life. Little did I know how prophetic these sentiments would turn out to be for my own career.  

Back in the early 1980s, it would have been hard to imagine a Scotland where smoking and cheap booze were banned in pubs, coal-powered electricity was being rapidly overtaken by renewables and the average Scot’s life span had lengthened by over five years for both men and women.   

Almost 40 years on, I spend my days studying longevity, trying to understand the reasons why different groups in our societies live longer or shorter lives. And trying to distil what’s going on in our “longevity pipeline” in the fields of medical research, public health and societal change.  

As we enter 2018, there is probably more uncertainty about what the future holds than at any time in my life. Whether it be the impact of robots caring for our elderly, global warming causing more droughts and heatwaves, social media improving awareness of healthier lifestyles, the emergence of new retirement communities in combating loneliness or the microscopic world of sequencing the genome, there can be little doubt that there are plenty of sources of change affecting future lifespans. I’m sure that you can add several more themes to this short list!

Pension funds and insurers make long-term promises, way beyond the time horizon of most of our political class. Club Vita’s big aim is to help make our society’s pension systems become more resilient to the change by enabling better sharing of data, information and ideas within our community of supporters. If this sort of stuff is relevant to you, please join our discussion at Friends of Club Vita on LinkedIn. You can request to join via the link at the bottom of this page. 

I’m really looking forward to another exciting year for Club Vita, with several new initiatives emerging from our incubator for the benefit of our community. But for now, to all our friends and your families around the world, lang may yer lums reek!

Douglas Anderson

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