Living to 100

Willard scott birthday cakeA new study finds that living to 100  will soon be commonplace:

If current life expectancy trends continue, more than half of babies born in rich nations since 2000 will live to 100 years of age, and they’ll have less disability than elderly people in previous generations.  That’s the conclusion of researchers who found that increases in life expectancy evident in rich nations since 1840 show no signs of slowing.

“The linear increase in record life expectancy for more than 165 years does not suggest a looming limit to human lifespan. If life expectancy were approaching a limit, some deceleration of progress would probably occur. Continued progress in the longest living populations suggests that we are not close to a limit, and further rise in life expectancy seems likely,” Kaare Christensen, of the Danish Aging Research Center at the University of Southern Denmark, and colleagues wrote. Their study appears online Oct. 1 in The Lancet.

During the 20th century, huge increases in life expectancy (30 years or more) occurred in developed nations. Even if health conditions don’t improve, 75 percent of babies born in rich nations since 2000 can expect to live to 75, the researchers concluded.

Their analysis of data from more than 30 developed countries revealed that death rates among people older than 80 are still falling. In 1950, the likelihood of survival from age 80 to 90 was 15 percent to 16 percent for women and 12 percent for men, compared with 37 percent and 25 percent, respectively, in 2002.

I actually think this projection is too conservative, in that advances in medical science at increasing faster than before.  Improvements in trauma care, for example, have been extraordinary and the spread of extraordinary emergency response even to remote areas should prevent countless needless deaths.

And then there are improvements in safety engineering and consciousness.  Kids wear helmets and pads to undertake even routine activities like riding a bicycle, which would have been unthinkable a generation ago.  And we keep kids in car seats until they’re roughly 30 years old now, providing protection from crashes previously known only to Richard Petty.

There’s talk of living to 150, which seems fantastical now but may be closer to the mark than the more pessimistic 75/75 total.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. odograph says:

    Have you run FireCalc with our 100 year expectancy?

    To borrow from a book that is half-good, a million is not enough.

  2. DC Loser says:

    Let’s not even talk about the health care and social security fiscal implications of this little tidbit.

  3. James Joyner says:

    Let’s not even talk about the health care and social security fiscal implications of this little tidbit.

    On the latter, at least, we’re simply going to have to rethink the whole retirement concept. There’s no reason that most of us should stop working in our 60s even now, let alone in such a world. The problem, of course, is that coal miners and jackhammer operators are still going to be “old” at a comparatively young age.

  4. Highlander says:

    I have had several close relatives live into their late 90’s and two went beyond 100. living to be this old is a little more complicated than merely having a heart beat and one good BM a day.

    The human body and mind is a complex of intertwined systems, and just because the main ones continue to function doesn’t mean the others will. All the subsystems are necessary for a good quality of life.

    Based on my personal observations, 75 to 80 is plenty long enough.

  5. Brett says:

    On the latter, at least, we’re simply going to have to rethink the whole retirement concept. There’s no reason that most of us should stop working in our 60s even now, let alone in such a world. The problem, of course, is that coal miners and jackhammer operators are still going to be “old” at a comparatively young age.

    Good point.

    Hopefully, what this will do is enable people to work productively for longer than they do now. Living to 100 is nice for the individual, but not so hot for society as a whole if someone is basically decrepit and dependent for the last 30 years of their life.

  6. odograph says:

    On the latter, at least, we’re simply going to have to rethink the whole retirement concept. There’s no reason that most of us should stop working in our 60s even now, let alone in such a world. The problem, of course, is that coal miners and jackhammer operators are still going to be “old” at a comparatively young age.

    You didn’t tackle “structural unemployment” in the other thread:

    Structural unemployment is long-term and chronic unemployment arising from imbalances between the skills and other characteristics of workers in the market and the needs of employers.

    I see boomers going into underfunded retirements not of choice, because the jobs they do (did) aren’t there. Globalization is part of this, as affluent 50-something Americans are priced out of a competition with newly skilled overseas workers.