Thanks to modern science, the life expectancy of humans has increased dramatically in the 21st century. Lifespans have gone up and the idea that people can live into their 100s is not a pipedream anymore.
Advances in anti-aging technologies along with better food, improved hygiene, healthcare and medical care and healthier lifestyles mean that people now can expect to live a lot longer compared to those a few years ago.
This can help to increase the average life expectancy of people from under 80 to 100 years. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, it is estimated that by 2050, at least a minimum of 400,000 people will live past 100 years.
This is a huge achievement but at the same time presents several challenges too. And in this article, we’ll discuss some of the pros and cons of living longer.
Advantages Of Living Longer
With lifespans going up because of the advancements in medical science and other technologies, people are now able to stay active and fit physically, mentally and socially for a lot longer than earlier on. And, there are several advantages to living longer.
Family And Social Implications
Today, more and more people of the older generation are embracing the idea of being young and living longer. A longer life expectancy offers immense opportunities to enjoy life for a longer time and spend time with friends, family and loved ones.
It enables families to live with several generations together, allowing you to watch your grandchildren, even your great-grandchildren, grow up.
It will allow you to teach the newer generations valuable traditions and values and impart your knowledge, enabling them to learn about the history, which can help to shape the future of the country and the world.
All this can help to foster increased social engagement, which in turn can help to impact life expectancy positively.
Longer life because of advanced medical care can ensure that you will be healthy and you can spend time doing fun things with your loved ones without the worry about illness and worsening health.
This will allow you to preserve your independence and you need not be concerned about being a liability to them. You can travel, see and explore the world.
You can dedicate more time to your interests and passions and learn new things without any time limit imposed because of gaining on your lifespan. No time limits mean that you can make different choices.
For instance, if you are not happy with what you studied or the career you chose, or if you had a child too early or late that stopped doing things, a longer life expectancy without specific limits will allow you to make choices and do things that you always wanted to do.
Living longer essentially means that people can spend more time working, which means careers will become longer and the retirement age pushed further.
This means that not only will people be able to support themselves for longer, but this will also help to prevent the overtaxing of the country’s social security system.
People can use the wealth of information and skills that they have amassed in their life and career to explore an “encore career” after retirement.
Further, if skilled people remain as part of the workforce for a longer time, it will help to add value to the economy by boosting productivity and innovation.
Working longer provides several advantages, including keeping individuals mentally engaged with work they love and/or value, giving them a feeling of purpose, preventing or minimizing loneliness and giving them more time to create financial stability and security.
Older people can explore newer jobs and newer ways of working and pursue different interests via a new job or career. And, if they are not happy with a career, they can change and explore other options.
When you consider older employees i.e., those above 50 years, they are probably the most engaged compared to any other age group. Keeping older workers in the workforce can help to boost productivity.
As per the OECD, it has been seen that if the workforce comprises more than 10% older workers, there is an increase in productivity by 1.1%.
A workforce having older workers also encourages multigenerational learning that helps to transfer skills among employees, resulting in a more productive and innovative workforce.
Further, with automation increasing by leaps and bounds in industries, today there is a huge need for employees with “5C” skills such as critical thinking, creativity, change management, collaboration and curiosity which cannot be automated.
And, it has been seen that these “5C” cognitive capabilities and skills take time to grow and are available to experienced and older members of the workforce.
Societal And Financial Implications
Longer lifespans can be good for society and can help to solve certain difficult issues such as pensions. The pension system of today was devised almost 100 years ago, where it was never envisaged that people will live to the age of 80 and 90.
And, it is anticipated that by 2050, the number of 60+ people will be around 2 billion. Experts believe that this can become a huge problem as the pension system may not be able to pay out pensions to all the elderly people.
Studies however show that by delaying illness and diseases caused because of aging, trillions of dollars can be saved. Older people will live longer, be healthier and also be able to work for a longer time, which means that pensions will no longer be needed.
Longer lifespans also can help to eliminate the requirement for traditional geriatric medicine, which is not only very expensive for society but is also quite ineffective.
Moving away from the financial benefits of longer lifespans can also benefit humanity in a significant way.
Life extension can ensure that great minds including scientists, economists, thinkers, philosophers, doctors, etc. can live for a long time, benefitting society and the world at large with their wisdom and knowledge.
They can help to bring science forward and produce quicker solutions for global issues.
Disadvantages Of Living Longer
The biggest challenge of living longer and aging is the risk of health conditions, right from poor eyesight, poor hearing, mobility issues, susceptibility to diseases to more serious conditions like cardiovascular diseases, type-2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, etc.
And the risk of all of these conditions and illnesses only goes up as a person grows older. Increasing life spans means increasing morbidity because people living longer are more susceptible to age-related illnesses such as dementia, dysfunction and disability.
Earlier on, people died when they were a lot younger, but today, people age and die slowly because of degenerative diseases preceded by many years of morbidity and aging.
For instance, around 30% of the people in the UK aged over 60 suffer from dementia before they die and this percentage is likely to grow because of the aging population.
It has been reported that over 80% of the people of 85+ years in the UK suffer from a disability.
Further, these disabilities occurring very late in life tend to be many and more severe, which means more seniors require help with their day-to-day activities and/or regular care. In general, the quality of life of seniors above 85 years is rather poor.
Moreover, the prevalence of disabilities and diseases in the aging population puts a great deal of pressure on the social systems, as well as the economy of the country because of the growing public expenditure due to healthcare, social care and pensions.
If life expectancy keeps increasing and people live a lot longer, this will translate into more population and hence the scarcity of resources.
The condition of poor countries suffering from poverty and lack of food will only worsen because the food production will not be sufficient to feed all the people.
With people living longer and being healthier and able to work longer, it means that if they don’t retire early, this will result in unemployment for the younger generation.
Older, experienced people will continue to hold jobs in companies and as a result, fresh graduates will not be able to get jobs.
Currently, the ratio of working people to retired people is 5:1 but over 30 years, this proportion is likely to increase to 5:2 and with medical advances, if the retirement age is advanced, then the ratio will increase to 5:4 and social security will be put under a lot of strain as a result of this.
And, based on the life expectancies, according to government actuaries, social security will be insolvent by 2041.
The main drawback of people living longer is that competition for jobs will become quite fierce because older people compete with younger employees for a limited number of positions. The other problem is workforce mobility.
If older people are going to hold on to their jobs for many years, this will make it very difficult for younger people to get in and move ahead in their careers.
Organizations will be dominated by a few older and experienced people who are not willing to relinquish their jobs. And, without the infusion of newer ideas and talent, organizations can stagnate.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Living Longer: Summing Up
In conclusion, we are moving towards increased life expectancies and people living for a lot longer than they did a few decades back. But this comes with a whole host of pros and cons, which we have discussed in-depth in our article.