Forward Living: We’ve really come a long way, baby

Isn’t it grand to be living in the 21st century? Sure, the world in which we live is chaotic, but consider the numerous positive and revolutionary changes that have influenced humankind.
Anyone who breathes is aware of the proliferation of technological advances that make our lives easier. Likewise, through the judicious application of science, technology, medicine and education, there have been many awe-inspiring improvements in the quality-of-life department.
In October, British scientist Robert Edward was awarded the 2010 Nobel Prize in Medicine for the development of human in vitro fertilization. This breakthrough has helped millions of infertile couples worldwide to become parents. Prior to in vitro fertilization, the only alternative for infertile couples was adoption.
Nowadays the anguish and disappointment that infertile couples endure has been liberally sprinkled with hope. Just think: Millions of wanted babies have been born, who, if not for this advance, would not be here today.
Receiving a cancer diagnosis was once perceived as a death sentence. Folks seldom talked openly about their disease. Adding to their isolation, the word cancer was rarely uttered; instead, cancer was referred to as “the big C.”
Today folks are candid about their illness. Better screening, minimally invasive surgery and advances in medicine have transformed cancer patients into cancer survivors. Many survivors live normal lives, while others view their cancer as a chronic disease. Isolation is optional. Numerous support groups are available to help folks navigate through the scary, uncharted territory of their illness.
The stunning medical advances in the fields of heart disease, vaccine production, geriatric medicine and genetic studies have improved the outlook for millions of people. Every day scientists and doctors are coming up with new methodologies to prevent or reverse the disease process.
Great leaps have been made in other arenas as well. Discrimination and harassment over one’s sexual orientation is plain wrong. Some studies on homosexuality have concluded that our sexual orientation is largely determined at birth. Back then, our gay brothers and sisters didn’t “come out” for fear of losing their jobs and/or families. Homosexuality has become more widely accepted, and why not? Being gay or lesbian is just another way of being.
Remember the kid who always got it wrong, couldn’t sit still or had problems socializing? Kids with learning disabilities were labeled as lazy or stupid. Kids with autism were sometimes institutionalized and — get this — some experts believed that mothers caused their kid’s autism by subconsciously rejecting them. Nowadays, kids with learning disabilities or autism are given a leg up through programs that offer social, physiological and medical support, increasing their ability to develop into productive adults.
We all knew bullies in school. Perhaps you were a victim, the bully or the one who looked the other way. The bully got a slap on the wrist and the victim was told to “man up.”
Tragedy has turned a spotlight on the abusive practices of bullies. Folks, bullying is not only a kid’s problem; adults are responsible for setting the example by showing respect for one another. (Yup, even when someone steals your parking space.) Clearly, most kids will heal outwardly, but the scars left on their souls are another matter.
Women were granted the right to vote a mere 90 years ago. Hard to believe, right? Although this was an important juncture for women, in my humble estimation winning the right to vote was just the tip of the iceberg. After decades of chopping away at discriminatory practices, women have finally broken through the glass ceiling in most male-dominated professions — and we’re still raising families. Who said we couldn’t have it all?
There are scores of advancements that have raised the quality–of-life bar but, alas, my column gets only so much space. But wait — I have room for one more.
Today, couples have the opportunity to become romantic whenever the moment is right. (Ha-ha, I thought you’d like that one!)

Ms. Iannelli is a resident of Jamesport.