What living longer means to an aging population

By Helen Dennis | Southern California News Group

Q. I recently have read a lot about living to be 100. It seems that it’s close to becoming a reality. It sounds good but I have some concerns. What are your thoughts on this topic?

Indeed, we are hearing a lot about living to be 100 with feature stories about centenarians’ secrets in living a long life. We learn about diets, life extension and research on interventions that may impede or reverse aging and extend longevity. There is the New England Centenarian Study at Boston University and the Longevity Genes Project at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Add to that the Gerontology Research Group meeting at UCLA tracking the oldest living people and the Blue Zones project studying the lifestyle habits of the longest-lived folks on the planet. 

In the U.S. there are about 90,000 centenarians who are 100 years or older, which is nearly twice as many as there were 20 years ago. In California, that number is 8,000. Furthermore, about half of current five-year-olds in the U.S. can expect to live to age 100 which likely will be the norm for newborns by 2050. 

Most people want to live that long a life if their physical and mental functions are intact. That’s my experience in addressing many diverse groups. I often begin my talks with, “How many here today want to live to be 100?” About three or four hands go up. When I rephrase the question, “How many would like to live to be 100 if they are doing well physically and mentally?” almost all hands are raised whether it is a group of 20 or 1,000. 

There are concerns about a rapidly aging population: Alzheimer’s disease, ageism, economic disparities, adequate and accessible health care and affordable housing to name a few. 

Yet, there is a different approach to aging that is optimistic and looks at possibilities. Lynda Gratton, professor of management practice at the London School of Business, and Andrew Scott, professor of economics at the same school, are co-authors of “The 100-Year Life” (Bloomsbury, 2016). They suggest we have an opportunity to restructure our lives to live that longer life. The traditional pathways of education, work and then retirement is a “pathway that is already beginning to collapse.” Laura Carstensen, director of the Stanford Longevity Center and the New Map of Life initiative, advocates the same. Let’s take a futurist approach and recognize longevity as an opportunity for life redesign, a gift that has already started. 

The authors suggest 14 changes that are likely or necessary to support this longevity. Here are just four of those changes:

People will work into their 70s and 80s: It’s happening. About 650,000 folks over age 80 were working this past year. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts the age 75 and older group is the only one expected to grow over a 10-year period. The lack of a pension keeps many older adults working. In addition to general economic need, some think work provides a sense of purpose, a place to go, and structure. 

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𝗖𝗿𝗲𝗱𝗶𝘁𝘀, 𝗖𝗼𝗽𝘆𝗿𝗶𝗴𝗵𝘁 & 𝗖𝗼𝘂𝗿𝘁𝗲𝘀𝘆:
𝗙𝗼𝗿 𝗮𝗻𝘆 𝗰𝗼𝗺𝗽𝗹𝗮𝗶𝗻𝘁𝘀 𝗿𝗲𝗴𝗮𝗿𝗱𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗗𝗠𝗖𝗔,
𝗣𝗹𝗲𝗮𝘀𝗲 𝘀𝗲𝗻𝗱 𝘂𝘀 𝗮𝗻 𝗲𝗺𝗮𝗶𝗹 𝗮𝘁

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