Most babies born in rich countries this century will eventually make it
to their 100th birthday, new research says. Danish experts say that
since the 20th century, people in developed countries are living about
three decades longer than in the past. Surprisingly, the trend shows
little sign of slowing down.
In an article published Friday in the medical journal Lancet, the researchers write that the process of aging may be “modifiable.”
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.
studies of mice, including our own, demonstrate that if you slow aging
even just a little, it has a strong protective effect,” he said. “A
pill that slowed aging could provide protection against the whole gamut
of aging-related diseases.”
While illnesses affecting the elderly like heart disease, cancer
and diabetes are rising, advances in medical treatment are also making
it possible for them to remain active for longer. The obesity epidemic,
however, may complicate matters. Extra weight makes people more
susceptible to diseases and may increase their risk of dying.
the U.S., data from 1982 to 2000 showed a major drop in illness and
disability among the elderly, though that has now begun to reverse,
probably linked to the rise in obesity.
graying population will slowly radically transform society, and
retirement ages may soon be pushed back, said Richard Suzman, an aging
expert at the U.S. National Institute on Aging.
are within five to 10 years of a watershed event where there will be
more people on earth over 65 than there under five,” he said. “Those
extra years need to be financed somehow and we need to start thinking
about it now.”