Rise of the Centenarians

Half of all babies in the Western hemisphere that are born now will make it to 105 years old. A century ago it was one out of hundred. When you are in your twenties now, there is 50% chance for you to reach 100. When you are in your early forties you have 50% chance for 95. When you are in your early sixties the figure is 90 years old. All this is scientifically calculated. We have conquered the diseases that killed so many infants for centuries. We are successfully fighting the welfare diseases — cancer for instance has become far less deadly over the last decades. And we are starting to work on the ‘old age’ diseases, Alzheimer in the first place. In England you receive a letter from the queen on your 100th birthday. A decade ago one person prepared them. Now there are seven. In Japan every hundred years old is offered a silver sake plate. They stopped. These days it cost too many plates.

Question is whether you should be happy with those hundred years on offer for you. Especially when the end stage is characterized by long-term malaise. That is called frailty: No disease but an overwhelming fragility that makes everything, from getting up till going asleep, severe hardship. Fortunately, frailty can be fought. Think progress in the medical sciences. Think pro-active, hyper-personalized, cloud-driven e-health arrangements. In 1984 22% within the age group of 85–90 were categorized as disables. Now it is 12%. For the 95+ age group the percentage dropped from 52 to 31.

So the frailty-phase at the end of your existence might be less harsh than anticipated. Unfortunately, this doesn’t go for your pension. State and nation will neither be able nor willing to lavish us with pensions that last for over three decades. You’d better prepare yourself. Re-vitalize yourself seriously, on time and continuously. Expect to work into your eighties. Gratton en Scott recently wrote The 100-year Life. They invite you when you make important decisions to place yourself in the shoes of the eighty years old is that already hides in you, and let him/her judge the wisdom of your decision. Refreshing thought experiment. With an inexorable long-term urgency.

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