The Longevity Dividend

Comments Off on The Longevity Dividend
The Longevity Dividend

Surveys of American adults have found, surprisingly, that most people do not want to live longer.  Why?  Most people imagine that an extended lifespan means simply adding more years of poor health to their retirement years.  Considering that multiple studies have shown that most people haven’t saved enough for retirement, living longer inspires fears of outliving one’s savings.  No one wants to be old and homeless, or to become a financial burden for one’s children and grandchildren.

There’s also no shortage of news stories warning that Social Security and Medicare are underfunded based on today’s life expectancies.  Adding more years of infirmity to the average lifespan would plunge these programs into insolvency even sooner.  Alternatively, if the government bails out these programs, taxes and federal debt will rise, while federal spending on infrastructure and scientific research will be cut, leading to catastrophic consequences for the economy.

For example, an article in The Atlantic cites research by Jay Olshansky, a professor of public health at the University of Illinois at Chicago.1  Olshansky believes that life expectancy will continue to follow the historic pattern for the rest of this century.  In 1900, the average life expectancy for an American at birth was 47 years.  An American born today is expected to live to just under 79 years.  Even without medical interventions, researchers expect average life expectancy for newborns to continue to increase by three months each year.  If that pattern holds, by 2050, life expectancy will be 88 years, and by 2100, it will reach 100 years.

Under that scenario, Olshansky projected that the number of Americans 65 or older, which is 43 million today, could swell to 108 million in 2050.  By 2050, life expectancy will extend three to eight years past the age used by the Social Security Administration to assess the solvency of its system.  By that year, he predicts, Medicare and Social Security will be burdened with from $3.2 trillion to $8.3 trillion in unfunded obligations, while state and local governments will accrue $1 trillion in unfunded pension liabilities.

But if anti-aging research fulfills its promise, people will not just live longer; they’ll be healthier, too—and that’s the solution to all of the potential problems associated with life extension.

Studies on yeast, worms, and mice have shown that these organisms can, in effect, stay younger for more years...

To continue reading, become a paid subscriber for full access.
Already a Trends Magazine subscriber? Login for full access now.

Subscribe for as low as $195/year

  • Get 12 months of Trends that will impact your business and your life
  • Gain access to the entire Trends Research Library
  • Optional Trends monthly CDs in addition to your On-Line access
  • Receive our exclusive "Trends Investor Forecast 2015" as a free online gift
  • If you do not like what you see, you can cancel anytime and receive a 100% full refund