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This chapter is from the book

What We Know About Super Agers

According to the New England Centenarian Study, as of 2014, one person for every 5 million people on the planet will live to 110 or more.

People who live to the age of 100 are called centenarians and their ranks are much more common than they used to be. In 2014, the incidence of centenarians was one for every 5,000 people and that number is steadily growing.

In 1999, data compiled by the United States Census Bureau shows that during the 1990s, the number of American centenarians nearly doubled: 37,000 at the beginning of the decade and 70,000 by the end.

Then there are the predictions.

A 2010 edition of TIME magazine reported that by 2050 more than 800,000 Americans will live into their second century of life. Remember, at the start of this chapter, we pointed to a long life strategy called: “Step 3.” It was “wait.” If you can hang on for another 30 years or so, you might be in luck. Compare 800,000 centenarians to data from 2010 when there were only 80,000 centenarians in America. That’s a forecasted tenfold improvement.

In 2013, National Geographic launched a longevity issue with a baby on the cover and a headline that read “This baby will live to be 120.” If that proves to be true, there will be at least 4 million supercentenarians in the United States by 2133.

A more aggressive prediction comes from controversial gerontologist Aubrey de Grey, a world-renowned longevity expert. He is also the chief science officer of the Mountain View, California-based SENS Foundation, a research-focused outreach organization that educates policymakers and the public about how humans can live longer through the “damage-repair” approach to treating age-related disease.

“We are looking at a divide and conquer approach. Dissecting the problem of aging, accumulating (the) damage of old age into sub-problems and addressing those sub-problems individually,” de Grey said. “The problem with aging is that so many things go wrong that we can’t control and fix them all.”

De Grey predicts by 2030 there will be 3 million centenarians worldwide. Based on accelerating technological improvements, he is likely to be right in his forecast, although not everyone agrees with him. A lot of that longevity progress will depend on breakthroughs in heart disease, cancer, and other life-ending diseases. Stem cell and genetic therapies, organ regeneration, and nanotechnologies will drive the trend.

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