Posts Tagged ‘Aging


if they live into the 22nd century, what then?

I’ve mentioned before that the chance of children born now have a 50/50 chance of living to 100. Prof. James Vaupel of Duke U puts it this way:

“It is possible, if we continue to make progress in reducing mortality, that most children born since the year 2000 will live to see their 100th birthday — in the 22nd century,” Vaupel said. If gains in life expectancy continue to be made at the same pace as over the past two centuries, more than half of the children alive today in the developed world may see 100 candles on their birthday cake.

In my 40 years in public health the drive I saw in health institutions was to work relentlessly toward reduced mortality and greater longevity. That was without question our measure of success. I never heard anyone ask if there were any unintended consequences to all this effort or anything we might need to prepare for.

Fortunately Dr. Vaupel seems to signal a change.

This leads to an interesting set of policy questions, said Vaupel. What will these dramatically longer lifespans mean for social services, health care and the economy? Can the aging process be slowed down or delayed still further? And why do women continue to outlive men Рoutnumbering them 6 to 1 at age 100?

It also may be time to rethink how we structure our lives, Vaupel said. “If young people realize they might live past 100 and be in good shape to 90 or 95, it might make more sense to mix education, work and child-rearing across more years of life instead of devoting the first two decades exclusively to education, the next three or four decades to career and parenting, and the last four solely to leisure.”

One way to change life trajectories would be to allow younger people to work fewer hours, in exchange for staying in the workforce to a later age. “The 20th century was a century of the redistribution of wealth; the 21st century will probably be a century of the redistribution of work,” Vaupel said.

Good thinking!


Your kids will live to be 100

hourglassThe BBC reports that a study in The Lancet says that in the rich countries (France, Germany, Italy, the UK, the USA, Canada, Japan, and other countries with long life) babies born after 2000 have about a 50% chance of living to 100 or more. The other good news side of this is that it appears that the elders will also suffer less from the debilitation of old age. They’ll likely be in better physical and mental shape that prior generations. Professor Kaare Christensen, of the Danish Ageing Research Centre at the University of Southern Denmark says:

“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.”

I don’t know whether or not that projection takes into account the scientific discipline of geroscience (The Buck Institute’s definition: “Geroscience focuses on the intersection of normal aging and age-related disease. Geroscience at the Buck Institute includes molecular genetics, biochemistry, cell biology, chemical biology, cancer biology, Alzheimer’s disease research, endocrinology, invertebrate aging, nutrition, bioenergetics, Parkinson’s disease research, molecular epidemiology, Huntington’s disease research, ischemia (stroke), proteomics, human embryonic stem cells, genomic stability and statistics”), but full throttle anti-aging research is expected by some to radically extend lifespan in this century.

So now the scientists are talking about the “four ages of man”[kind]:

  • child
  • adult
  • young old age
  • old old age

Wow! Two old age categories. Isn’t one enough?

I hope this news causes people to step back and take a longer view of the consequences of what we’re doing now. If your kids or grandkids are going to be around until ~2110 then they will experience the full effects of climate change, population growth, energy transition, and global economics and politics. For many of us alive now, how that plays out is pretty much just speculation we’ll not be around to see. But for this forthcoming generation of centenarians it’s all going to get very real.

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