Quality of Life
Quality of Life
How old will our children live to be? 120? 150? The average human life span continues to lengthen, and more and more of us will enjoy a long life. A substantial proportion of today’s children will one day celebrate their 100th birthday, whereas back in 1900, half of all human beings were dead by the age of 37. Life expectancy in the Western world has advanced with remarkable speed, which means the number of old people is also increasing rapidly. A century ago, a mere 1 percent of the world’s population was aged older than 65. By 2050, that figure will be about 20 percent. Babies born in 2010 will live an average of 20 years longer than those born in 1950. Life expectancy increases 3 years for each decade that passes, reflecting ongoing progress in technology. The necessities of life are provided more efficiently than they were a century ago, certainly in the West. There is enough to eat, and we are well clothed and sheltered. Advances in medical science mean we can live longer without falling victim to disease. And if we do get sick, we can survive longer. Chronic illness, heart conditions, and cancer are no longer necessarily a death sentence. People in the developed world now live so long that the main causes of death for those under 50—violence and suicide—lie beyond the reach of medical technology. We only become dependent on medical intervention later in our lives, as the age at which we begin to “break down” has risen progressively over the past century. Today’s old people are much sprightlier than their counterparts in the past. A person now aged 75 frequently has a similar level of health, vitality, and joie de vivre as a 65-year-old two generations ago. We wear out less, our living conditions are better, and prompt action is taken if something goes wrong. Most important, many people believe it is worthwhile to live longer as we can enjoy the extra years in good health and pleasant circumstances.
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