Imagine a future where a 90 year old can live with the quality of life of a 40 year old.
It’s not too far off — potentially within a decade, according to projections in a forthcoming book by Dr. Michael Roizen, 76, director emeritus of wellness at the Cleveland Clinic; Al Ratner, 94, former chairman and CEO of Forest City Enterprises; and Peter Linneman, 71, director of Linneman Associates in Philadelphia.
As science has accelerated exponentially, cures and treatments are prolonging life so significantly they’ve changed the trajectory of the population, said Roizen, who had a front row seat to many of these discoveries back then. that he spent more than a decade leading the panel that selected the Clinic’s Top 10 Annual Medical Innovations.
Ultimately, the authors predict a 30-year increase in lifespan, Ratner said.
“Instead of thinking you’re going to retire between 60 and 65 and live to be maybe 80, you’re now going to say, ‘Hey, I’m going to live to be 115,'” Roizen said, noting that these projections are with a probability of about 80%. “We’re in this slowly progressive era, and then over the next eight to 12 years, it’s all going to happen at once. And we’re all going to be able to live a lot longer, a lot younger.”
The authors define longevity not just as the length of life, but as the number of years people live “healthy, happy and productive” lives, Ratner said.
Historically, labor force growth has depended on population growth, but labor shortages and labor issues show that it is no longer as reliable, a Ratner said, pointing to declining birth rates, minimal immigration and more people retiring than joining the workforce. This requires focusing on longevity.
“It takes 18 years to bring more people into the workforce, doesn’t it?” said Ratner. But if someone working today chooses to retire 10 years later, he says, “that’s 10 more years of work. So the solution is longer working years, and you can do it if you’re healthy and willing to work longer, which we think you will, because you’re going to live a lot longer.”
“The Great Age Reboot” predicts that by 2050 the US population will be 451 million, which is significantly higher than the US Census population projections. Federal government figures have been updated a few times in recent years, but in the latest projection from the US Congressional Budget Office, the country’s population will grow from 335 million people in 2022 to 369 million people in 2052, according to data published at the end of July.
Roizen said for their figures they used the same birth and immigration rates as the US Census through 2050, but projected a different death rate as advances in cures and therapies led to a reduction in chronic disease. and better health of the aging population.
Such a shift would completely change what people should expect from life and how they plan for it, Roizen said. The impetus to write the book was preparing people for “significant and emotional” policy and planning changes, he said.
If people live to be 115, they are unlikely to retire at 65, which would require increased age requirements for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, Roizen said, noting that during this working time, people would contribute.
“It ends up being not only something we shouldn’t fear – that is, longevity shouldn’t be feared – but longevity is the solution to much of the current stress and other, if you will, current concerns about retirement and Medicare and Medicaid.”
For that to be the solution, there would have to be an adjustment to the eligibility threshold.
Linneman, who is also a professor emeritus at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business, said those extra decades of life won’t be what most think of the last years of life today. He compares it to the lifespan of a well-maintained car.
“When I was young, if an automobile went 40,000 miles, it was like, ‘Wow!'” he said. “Well, now an automobile, if you take care of it, goes 200,000 miles.”
Increasing lifespans and declining birth rates are “all the more so” that greater health and longevity are needed, Linneman said.
“We need these healthcare workers not to have lost their energy, their vigor, their health, by the time they turn 60 or 65,” he said. “We need them to have their health and their vigor and their energy and their commitment for another five, seven years.”
In addition to the book, a PBS fundraising special based on “The Great Age Reboot” is coming in December and will highlight some of these changes in different parts of the country.
A longer lifespan provides more scope for innovation, Linneman said. He cites the loss of human capital during World War II as an example and asks how many breakthroughs never happened or companies were never created.
“If you think about longevity and better health, better dynamism, living longer – living longer in the years when you have more experience and more judgment – you’re just increasing human capital “, did he declare. “You increase the chance of productivity. Not just chance; you increase the years of productivity, the chance of innovation, the chance of collaboration.”