Prolonged Life Span Leads to Medical Challenges

February 9, 2018

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As humankind wakes up every morning to new discoveries in various spheres that lead to major lifestyle shifts. Some of these are welcome changes, but some are undesired by-products of the relentless progress, and actually need to be heeded special attention, as they create new problems.

One of such issues is the prolongation of the average life span. A longer life span is indisputably positive… or is it? Scientific predictions are casting doubt on this statement, since it is not only the length of life that matters, it is, maybe even more importantly, the quality of life.

By 2030, there will be approximately 72 million people in the 65+ age bracket in the United States, a number that is expected to increase further to 98 million by 2060. Life expectancy is also projected to rise by 10 years for both genders, and may exceed 90 years, as Time magazine reports. Moreover, the gender gap in life expectancy is gradually decreasing.


Sounds good, but what do all these figures mean?

On one hand, we are already seeing seniors working past retirement age far more often than before, and the US government has already set the retirement age at 67 for those born after 1960 (and is expected to raise it further with time). Older people today are also much more active for a longer time in their life – in every sense of the word. They are into sports, dancing, traveling, various other types of physical and mental activity on a much larger scale than before. This is an indicator that a generally healthier old age currently lasts longer than in the past.

However, the rather rapid forecasted increase in life expectancy will inevitably have negative consequences as well. While medicine has been making amazing breakthroughs, and is bound to make countless more in the decades to come, it is still helpless in a number of cases.

Meanwhile, the number of seniors that will suffer from four or more chronic illnesses is expected to double in less than 20 years, by 2035, as Age and Ageing, a British scientific journal reported recently. The numbers are striking – as many as one third of all seniors affected will likely have a cognitive impairment. Other chronic conditions enumerated in the study are:

  • diabetes
  • arthritis
  • depression
  • high cholesterol
  • chronic kidney disease
  • coronary heart disease
  • heart failure
  • Alzheimer’s
  • chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
  • cancer.

Cancer, diabetes and arthritis are leading the list of predicted diagnosis and prevalence increases in the 85+ population. Among the reasons, besides the increased life span, are the salient rise in obesity and lack of physical activity, which are notorious for being risk factors for practically every disease on the list. The number of obese people increased 5.5-fold in the last 40 years, what’s even more terrifying is the fact that the number of obese children and teenagers increased even more. All of these numbers are bound to increase further, unless a major conscious effort is made to maintain a healthy level of activity and a generally healthy lifestyle, perhaps even government-level effort.

Meanwhile, as upsetting as these prognoses may sound, there’s also positive developments to be anticipated. There are already very promising breakthroughs in cancer research, which may lead to a revolution in cancer treatment and a sharp decline in the death rate associated with this notorious disease. The same goes for the medical research segments that focus on other conditions. Statistics demonstrates that people, including seniors, are leading an increasingly healthier lifestyle, which is bound to be reflected in health-related statistics.


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Technology is also striving to alleviate some of the problems linked to old age and its typical challenges – like this hip fracture prevention belt, or many other innovations that target seniors and their specific needs. Many consumer industry segments, including high-tech, are focusing their attention on older consumers and searching to provide useful products and services to this growing population. There’s certainly much more to come, and, considering the pace at which progress is advancing nowadays – an absolutely mind-blowing speed – mostly optimistic expectations are in order.


Besides, there’s another direction of research very popular today – that which involves slowing down the aging process itself. If it brings any successful developments, not only will the life span increase, but this life will be truly full of feeling and activity – and isn’t that the very point of increasing the life span? It shouldn’t just be the numbers, it should be joie de vivre, the joy of living.

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