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Despite a recent dip in the life expectancy of people in the United States, the general trend in recent decades has seen a perpetual march upwards of the average life expectancy.
By: Adi Gaskell, Contributor
Despite a recent dip in the life expectancy of people in the United States, the general trend in recent decades has seen a perpetual march upwards of the average life expectancy. Indeed, in 1900, the typical person would live to around their mid 40s, which is approximately half what it is in many developed countries today.
This has prompted a rethink away from simply trying to maintain this rising life expectancy, and towards trying to ensure that the extra years we do have are healthy and prosperous. It’s a distinction aptly described by London Business School’s Lynda Gratton as the longevity blessing rather than the longevity curse.
In their recent book, The 100-Year Life, they highlight how if we get this wrong, we could be forcing people not only to work longer into old age, but force them to live with a growing number of comorbidities that provide precious little quality of life. To achieve a blessed old age, we need quality of years, not just quantity.
As you might expect from a business school professor, Gratton’s book focuses primarily on working matters, including retirement, education and a rupture of the traditional ‘three stage life’ that sees us study-work-retire, and a shift towards a multistage life where these things are far more fluid.
Growing old gracefully
These are undoubtedly important, and will be touched on in the remaining articles on this topic this month, but they are not the only concern society faces in terms of our ageing populations. A report from the UK’s Government Office for Science explores a wide range of issues involved in the greying of the western world, from healthcare to urban planning.
“Will the growing number of people in later life be predominantly empowered, skilled, healthy and able to contribute fully to society?,” the report asks. “Or will we be increasingly unhealthy, disempowered and dependent?”
The report breaks its findings down into a number of key areas:
“The ageing population presents opportunities to individuals and society,” the report concludes. “However, as with any major demographic change, it also presents challenges and ignoring these could undermine the potential benefits of living longer.”
Over the remainder of this month, I will explore some of the issues outlined above in more detail, and examine how we can secure the longevity blessing both for ourselves and for society as a whole.
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