"This is a demographic revolution the likes of which we have never seen before on earth,"
professor of insurance and risk management at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School, says in a
challenges of living to 100 will be to systematically weave financial
literacy into elementary, middle and high school programs," Professor
Mitchell says. "We need to get people to think differently about
investing in themselves, in their human capital." She says basic
economics eludes many workers. Only 20 percent of Americans in their 50s
have planed for retirement, even though many will retire in their 60s,
and live into their late 70s and beyond. Mitchell says education needs
change so that people are prepared for several 20-year careers over a
life time."Ageing Populations: The Challenges Ahead,"
article by Kaare Christiansen, a professor and aging expert at the University of Southern Denmark, James W. Vaupel,
of the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research
in Germany, and others, predictsneed for many radical public policy changes.
research suggests life expectancy will increase by 30 years in Western
Europe, the U.S., Canada, Australia and New Zealand, and even more in
Japan, Spain and Italy. While the Lancet
study did not examine
life expectancy in the developing world, the Wharton article says those
countries are also experiencing increases in life-expectancy. According
to Census figures, there were 55,000 centenarians in the U.S. in 2005
, and the Census Bureau predicts there could be 5.3 million people over 100 year-old by 2100.
authors think longevity will increase through the Twenty-first century,
and that "continued progress in the longest living populations suggests
that we are not close to a limit."
Researchers also say older people will be healthier than earlier generations. Wharton Professor Kent Smetters
says in the Wharton article that Medicare will be stressed by a growing
elderly population, but that because the highest healthcare cost are in
the last two or three years of life, delaying that expense will save
money beforehand. Researchers also expect major change in employment,
with increasing numbers of working elderly who may want more flexibility
and part time jobs. Social changes will include adjustment in
retirement age, old workers with younger supervisors, changes in
expectations and attitudes about age, and the need for institutional
restructuring in Social Security, Medicare and education.
Vaupel puts it, people would organize their lives differently if they
knew they'd live to be 100 or older. Some projections for continued
contributions by healthy old people are quite optimistic. Some aren't.
The worst could evoke the Struldbruggs
, the immortals who lived in Luggnagg in Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels
They lose their youth, but live on, hairless, toothless, befuddled and
despised. By 80 they are legally dead and their heirs get their
estates. By 90, they forget most things, and can't even read, because
memory won't carry them from beginning to end of a sentence. Worse,
because their language is always in flux, Struldbruggs of one generation
can't communicate with anyone from another generation. The
intergenerational consequences of real increased longevity will be a
fertile area for study.