A few days ago I viewed a CNN program about ageing. The guest speakers indicated that all signs pointed to a significant increase in the average life of Americans, and that there will likely be many more people that live past the age of 100.
The reasons for longer life are many. Science, medicine, prevention and treatment of disease, healthier eating habits, cleaner water and a better environment are all playing a part in a dramatic phenomenon that will enable us to survive to advanced ages, and have a good life style.
But the implications of extended live around the world are sometimes problematic. Generally most countries are not replenishing the deaths of people with new births. This has the impact of increasing the average age of people across the globe.
As we all know the older we get, the more we must rely upon medicine and treatment to fight off disease and to contend with our ageing bodies. This means that over time health care will become even more important than it is today. Access to and affordability of drugs to deal with high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease and other ailments affecting our vital organs will become more critical.
The social implications of old age are also daunting. Older people require more attention from their families. Often times the elderly move in with their children and dramatically impact the social order of their family units. The cost of health care, food and shelter are not insignificant items for many people, and they will become increasingly more burdensome.
It’s expected that many ageing adults will want to work longer to support themselves. This may result in a shortage of employment opportunities for younger, especially considering the automation of industry. Is reaching 65 a reasonable time to retire? If you expect to live to 90 or older, would you be happy with the prospect of sitting at home watching TV for 25 more years?
There are serious financial considerations as well. Many older people plan for a 10 to 15 year retirement. If their lives in retirement increase to more than 15 years, how will they be able to support themselves?
And finally the life styles of 80, 90 and 100 year old people must be considered. Do you really want to have an extended life without having things to keep you busy, like work, meeting with other people your age, hampered by decreased mental capacity, without vision to read the newspapers or to even watch TV? Individuals and society must define acceptable conditions for extended survival in general. The definition is certainly not vegetating in an old folks home. Quality time with family is always a high priority. But this sometimes puts undo pressure on other family members.
The ability to have, or not have, a good life style could make euthanasia a more desirable alternative. The social, ethic and moral ramifications of ending people’s lives in large numbers is an important issue that will get much more attention as time passes by politicians, religious people and ethicists.
In the future education requirements may change as well. We are currently being trained to work for 30 or 40 years in a job. Will we need new training to work another 20 years in a role that is compatible with physical and mental capability? Training of retirees could well become a very significant political issue.
Our entitlement systems will come under increasingly more stress as well. If we retire at 75, 80 or even 85, should we receive support from the government beginning at 60-65? This is a prime reason for current fiscal problems at the federal and state levels in America (people are living longer than expected). It’s a contentious subject that needs to be addressed as we live and work longer. It’s unrealistic to expect government to support us for more than 20 years after retirement.
Another important concept discussed during the CNN broadcast was how younger people could potentially link up with retirees to help them with creative projects. Learning from the mistakes of the past is an important part of progress moving forward.
Here are some facts and predictions for living until 100:
- Number of US centenarians in 1990- 37,306 (0.0150% of total population)
- In 2010 53,364 (0.173%)
- Odds of living to 100 if you are 65 today- men 3%, women 5.8%, either member 8.7%.
- There are about 500 thousand centenarians in the world. The number is expected to increase to 3.7 million by 2050.