Ask people how long they want to live, and many will answer: “As long as I have my health.”
But just how old is that? News last week that the limit on human life may be 115 has prompted a great deal of speculation about rising life expectancies.
A recent research survey in the USA reveal that most Americans, though, do expect to live longer than the current average U.S. life expectancy of 79, according to Pew. Asked how long they thought they would live, 69% stated an age between 79 and 100, with 90 being the median.
A study in England finds that an overall life expectancy of just shy of 80 and over 83 respectively.
People born today can expect to live almost twice as long as their counterparts in Victorian times.
There are a combination of reasons for this – better diet, safety and medical progress, which has meant people are less likely to die from infectious diseases, strokes and heart attacks.
But the consequence has been that people are increasingly spending their later years struggling with chronic illnesses such as dementia and diabetes.
The result is a surge in interest over what is called healthy life expectancy – a measure of how many years of good health a person can expect.
Currently in England the figure is just over 63 years for males born between 2012 and 2014 and 64 for females.
That compares with an overall life expectancy of just shy of 80 and over 83 respectively.
It means for a fifth of our lives we can expect to be struggling with ill health.
But depending on your background, there is a huge variation in when this period of ill health starts and how long it lasts.
There is a war waged by nation’s brightest minds against aging. From Google’s campus to university labs to government think tanks, researchers claim that babies born this year should live up to 120 years and that, long before today’s infants mature, some readily achievable changes in health care will have produced millions of sharp, active and healthy centenarians.
On other study’s conclusions were based on the premise that by 2030 we will find ways to extend life expectancy for people who successfully reach age 50 by 2.2 years — to 89, from the current 87. According to the study, such modest gains in delaying the pace of aging should produce 11.7 million more healthy Americans over the age of 65 by 2060 than would otherwise be expected. Slowing the pace of aging, according to the report, would also inhibit the onset of age-related diseases, delivering not only longer lives but what scientists call compression of morbidity. The longer we live healthy lives, according to this theory, the less time we’ll spend living with illness toward the end of our lives.
These longer relationships mean our expectations and approaches to them may have to alter if they are to last.
Modern life means that is less common. So how will we pay for care? Will the state be there to help?
This brings us nicely on to why this issue is of huge interest to the government.
It is in the process of raising the retirement age. But if people are not well enough to work, that will do little good to the nation’s coffers.
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References: Forbes, BBC