People are living longer: To what age do we now consider seniors?
Age is more than just a number. Thanks to advances in science and medicine the number representing the average lifespan is climbing higher and higher, and some experts believe it will reach levels unthinkable than just a few short years ago. The fact of the matter is that people are living longer, reaching a point that challenges the conventional assumptions about what age we now consider seniors.
Human health advances lead to longevity
Life expectancy took a sharp climb upward in the 20th century due to advances in human health. While this achievement is most pronounced in the developed world, longevity is not a Western phenomenon. In fact, East Asia shows the most gains in longevity, boosting lifespans from less than 45 years in 1950 to more than 74 years, according to the Institute on Aging at the US National Institutes of Health. Life expectancy in Japan has surpassed 83 years of age, making that country the current leader in longevity.
Some scientists believe that the evolution of humanity is about to surpass the average life expectancy of 83 years of age it is today. The longest-living person reached the age of 122. Scientist Aubrey De Grey believes that the first person who will live to see the age 150 has already been born, as reported in London’s Daily Mail. De Grey describes ageing as the “accumulation of molecular and cellular damage in the body”. He believes that advances in technology are moving medicine towards gene therapies, stem cell therapies, and immune stimulation that will stave off this damage. While some of these therapies are still in development, there can be no doubt that life spans are increasing. The longevity of Japan’s population is evident, with more than 44,000 centenarians alive and well in 2010.
Technology with human intelligence to defeat disease
Ray Kurzweil, Chief Futurist at Google, is going even further with a prediction that technology holds the potential to enable humans to live forever. He believes that this longevity will be achieved through a merging of human intelligence with technology, a combination that will come within the next 30 years, according to The Science Explorer. Kurzweil says that the key to human longevity lies in the development of nanobots, which are or microscopic, self-propelled robots. These tiny robots will take on the role of the body’s immune response cells that fight off disease and infection. For example, rather than employing the body’s immune system to fight cancer in the immunotherapy approach that many pharmaceutical companies are taking to treat cancer, Kurzweil proposes using nanobots to accomplish the task.
This future is not too distant. Kurzweil projects that this nanobot technology could be ready by 2029. He believes technological advances could reach the point where nanobots could “hack the body” addressing all manner of disease and disorders, perhaps indefinitely. “We could have one programmed to deal with all pathogens and could download new software from the internet if a new type of enemy such as a new biological virus emerged,” he told The Science Explorer.
A new definition for “seniors”
The technological advances that science is working on today may not be ready for those who are already advanced in age. But that does not mean that today’s seniors are not making the most of their longer life spans. In fact, Sherwin Sheik, founder and CEO of CareLinx, a company whose online marketplace connects families with caregivers, believes that it’s time to abolish the term “seniors.” Writing in a Huffington Post blog post, Sheik notes that the word has many negative connotations, such as a lapse in memory being called a “senior moment.” But Sheik says that such stereotypes belie the accomplishments of others who have been fortunate to live a long life. He notes that the National Senior Games Association features many athletes ranging in age from 50 to 96, most of whom are more fit and athletic than people half their age. Instead of referring to people older than 50 as “seniors,” Sheik proposes calling them “ageless.” If the medical and technological advances that De Grey and Kurzweil predict come true, ageless is what all of us will be.