People are living longer and healthier -- now what?

Mar 24, 2010

People in developed nations are living in good health as much as a decade longer than their parents did, not because aging has been slowed or reversed, but because they are staying healthy to a more advanced age.

"We're living longer because people are reaching old in better health," said demographer James Vaupel, author of a review article appearing in the March 25 edition of Nature. But once it starts, the process of aging itself -- including dementia and heart disease -- is still happening at pretty much the same rate. "Deterioration, instead of being stretched out, is being postponed."

The better health in older age stems from public health efforts to improve living conditions and prevent disease, and from improved medical interventions, said Vaupel, who heads Duke University's Center on the of Aging and holds academic appointments at the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research in Rostock, Germany, and the institute of Public Health at the University of Southern Demark.

Over the past 170 years, in the countries with the highest life expectancies, the average has grown at a rate of 2.5 years per decade, or about 6 hours per day.

The chance of death goes up with age up until the most advanced ages. The good news is that after age 110, the chance of death does not increase any more. The bad news is that it holds steady at 50% per year at that point, Vaupel said.

"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.

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

Explore further: Physicists create tool to foresee language destruction impact and thus prevent it

More information: Biodemography of human ageing," James W. Vaupel, Nature, Vol. 464, 25 March 2010 doi: 10.1038/nature08984

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User comments : 9

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Glyndwr
5 / 5 (1) Mar 24, 2010
Hope lies in unbiased free education for all
meeker
1 / 5 (1) Mar 24, 2010
There will come a time when everything will basically be free. Printable food and virtual reality will let everyone have pretty much anything they want.

People will learn and work because they want to and not just in order to make money. We'll have to live longer to do everything we want to do in life.
Shootist
2 / 5 (4) Mar 25, 2010
Hope lies in unbiased free education for all


Yeah? Who decides what is unbiased?

Second. There ain't no such thing as a free lunch.

Free men are not equal. Equal men are never free.
Shootist
2 / 5 (4) Mar 25, 2010
There will come a time when everything will basically be free. Printable food and virtual reality will let everyone have pretty much anything they want.


Again! with the violation of the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics.

People will learn and work because they want to and not just in order to make money. We'll have to live longer to do everything we want to do in life.


Replacing economics? With what? Pixie Dust and good wishes?
GaryB
1 / 5 (1) Mar 27, 2010
There will come a time when everything will basically be free. Printable food and virtual reality will let everyone have pretty much anything they want.

Replacing economics? With what? Pixie Dust and good wishes?


Corporations will be replaced by "adhocracies" and money will be replaced by "Wuffies" Please read "Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom" where all this is explained in detail.
GaryB
1 / 5 (2) Mar 27, 2010
"now what?"

I suggest:

Dancing on the graves of the poor unfortunates who lived nasty, brutal and shorter lives. Once a month, on the new moon. Bring high quality wine and guitars.
marjon
2 / 5 (2) Mar 27, 2010
The headline suggests that somebody or some government must do something about this.
What's wrong with letting free people work this out for themselves and allow free markets to respond to changing needs?
Quantum_Conundrum
2.3 / 5 (3) Mar 27, 2010
marjon:

Because "free markets" do not work...This is why Monopoly laws exist, and it's also why social programs exist in the first place. Because "free" markets are never about "freedom"...at least not for anyone other than the person who owns the monopoly/ologopoly.

The solution is simple really, increase the minimum age to get benefits.

===

Shootist:

Laugh it up, but in theory, there is nothing preventing an age of ultimate technology through genetics and nano-tech. If everyone were honest, at least, and if we had hoards of loyal worker robots from nano-bots to macro-bots, then there'd be no need for a work force, and therefore currency markets would collapse.

Unfortunately that is unlikely to happen in the "real" world, because some greedy capitalist will...capitalise and just own all the robots for himself...
marjon
1 / 5 (1) Mar 28, 2010
Free markets enable prosperity. Monopolies can only exist with government force. That is NOT a free market. Free markets are all about freedom for the entrepreneur and the customer.
We are swimming in one of the world's greatest free markets: computers-software-internet. Where are the monopolies?