A Very Safe Prediction

This, I think, is a very safe prediction by Vaupel et al.:

If the pace of increase in life expectancy in developed countries over the past two centuries continues through the 21st century, most babies born since 2000 in France, Germany, Italy, the UK, the USA, Canada, Japan, and other countries with long life expectancies will celebrate their 100th birthdays.

Although trends differ between countries, populations of nearly all such countries are ageing as a result of low fertility, low immigration, and long lives. A key question is: are increases in life expectancy accompanied by a concurrent postponement of functional limitations and disability? The answer is still open, but research suggests that ageing processes are modifiable and that people are living longer without severe disability.

There's also plenty of mainstream press attention:

James Vaupel of the Max Planck Institute in Germany and colleagues in Denmark examined studies published globally in 2004-2005 on numerous issues related to aging. They found life expectancy is increasing steadily in most countries, even beyond the limits of what scientists first thought possible. In Japan, for instance, which has the world's longest life expectancy, more than half of the country's 80-year-old women are expected to live to 90.

"Improvements in health care are leading to ever slowing rates of aging, challenging the idea that there is a fixed ceiling to human longevity," said David Gems, an aging expert at University College London. Gems was not connected to the research, and is studying drugs that can lengthen the life span of mice, which may one day have applications for people.

If you look back in the Fight Aging! archives, you'll find more of Vaupel's views on aging and enhanced longevity through medical science:

Plasticity of Aging:

So the progress [in life expectancy prior to 1950] was largely due to saving lives below age sixty-five, especially children.

But after 1950 the improvements to life expectancy have largely been due to saving lives after age sixty-five, to this extension of life, to this [adding] years to the life of older people.

A Short Quote:

"But 125, 130 years is not unreasonable to expect soon," said James Vaupel, the institute's expert on ageing. "Really, the potential to live even beyond this time is there."

From my perspective, for present trends in longevity to continue unchanged would be the least likely of outcomes. We live in an age of revolution in computing and biotechnology, of vast and ever-increasing gains in our knowledge of human biochemistry. Only by utterly failing to put this knowledge to practical use could we avoid some form of greatly increased life span. The open questions, the important open questions, all revolve around how fast this future will arrive - fast enough to help us, or slow enough to help only our children?


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