We are Living a Decade Longer Than Our Parents
Generation Due to Healthy Aging
Good news is that after age 110, chance of death
does not increase. Bad news is that it holds steady at 50% per year.
March 24, 2010 People today are living
substantially longer than their parents generation, not because aging
has been slowed or reversed, but because they are staying healthier. A
demographer writes on the longevity phenomenon in the March 25 edition
of Nature and wonders how we can keep in going.
People in developed nations are living in good
health as much as a decade longer than their parents did.
"We're living longer because people are reaching
old age 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
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 Demography 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 life span 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, health 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
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.
Keep up with the latest news for senior citizens, baby