Old Age in the Future, and A Failure of the Imagination

This article on the future of being old talks about a failure of the imagination, the broad assumption by many people that their lives will look like the lives of their parents and grandparents in scope and length. Yet the article is itself a failure of the imagination - doing nothing more than projecting present slow trends, without looking at what is taking place in the laboratories. "It used to be that we knew what old age looked like. ... This was back when people over 65 accounted for a relatively small proportion of the US population - under 10 percent in 1960, according to the census from that year - and the average age at the time of death hovered under 70. Since then, advances in medicine and increasingly widespread health-consciousness have caused these numbers to rise precipitously. Demographers predict that by 2030, average life expectancy will have climbed past 80 and people over 65 will account for more than 20 percent of the country's population. ... Plenty has been said about how old age is changing now. But what will it be like for those of us who won't be hitting our 50th reunions for several more decades? Amid all the demographic projections, and all the worries about resources, we tend to assume that the actual texture of life as an old person in the future will be more or less what it is today - that even as old age lasts longer and becomes more prevalent in society, the concept itself, and the kind of life one associates with it, will remain intact. But this is a failure of imagination: In fact, old age in the future - particularly if you're looking at 2050 and later - promises to bear little resemblance to old age as it is experienced in 2011."

Link: http://boston.com/bostonglobe/ideas/articles/2011/05/08/seniorland_circa_2050/?page=full

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