THIS year, the number of pensioners in the UK exceeded the number of minors for the first time in history. That’s remarkable in its own right, but the real “population explosion” has been among the oldest of the old – the centenarians. In fact, this is the fastest-growing demographic in much of the developed world. In the UK, their numbers have increased by a factor of 60 since the early 20th century. And their ranks are set to swell even further, thanks to the ageing baby-boomer generation: by 2030 there will be about a million worldwide.
These trends raise social, ethical and economic dilemmas. Are medical advances artificially prolonging life with little regard for the quality of that life? Old age brings an increased risk of chronic disease, disability and dementia, and if growing numbers of elderly people become dependent on state or familial support, society faces skyrocketing costs and commitments. This is the dark cloud outside the silver lining of increasing longevity. Yet researchers who study the oldest old have made a surprising discovery that presents a less bleak vision of the future than many anticipate.
To read the full article, head on over to The New Scientist. Well worth a read.