It’s probably not surprising to hear that, on average, humans are living longer now than they ever have throughout recorded history. This continuing trend of increased life expectancy has been a part of modern life for at least the past 75 years, which leads many to ask the question, “What does the future of longer living look like?
In this week’s blog post, Aging Resources of Douglas County is offering up some things to consider when thinking about life expectancy in the future. While no one has a crystal ball they can use to see into the future, there are some exciting technological developments that very well may contribute to an ever-increasing human life expectancy.
Survival vs. Living Healthier
Before we dive into what science is doing today to help us live longer tomorrow, let’s look at the many reasons why we’re doing so well as it is.
If we look back to where humanity was just 200 years ago, we find a very different picture of human mortality rates compared to where we are today. For example, if you were five years old in 1841, you were only expected to live to be about 55 years old. Why?
The most explanatory answers are vaccination, improved civil hygiene, and more ready access to medicine and medical services.
Vaccination can be said to be the single most important reason why diseases like measles, Rubella, and polio haven’t been killing millions of young children every year for the past hundred or so years. Because vaccinations actually prevent the onset of devastating illnesses, young children stand a much higher chance of achieving their longest life expectancy.
Remember that lifespan and life expectancy are two totally different data points. When children get vaccinated, their lifespan averages only increase when they continue to live longer lives. Life expectancy, however, for all of them improves immediately upon vaccination.
We take for granted things like running water, industrial air filters, and antiseptic cleaners like Purell. They’re all around us, and they’re just part of our everyday lives. 200 years ago, however, this was not the case. The proliferation of disease-causing germs significantly contributed to the spread of fatal illnesses, especially in areas of dense human population.
Today, because we understand so much about Germ Theory, we’re able to avoid an early end to our lives at the hands of devastating infections and viruses.
Access to Medicine
Our infrastructure dedicated to rapidly responding to medical emergencies has meant that those who need critical medical attention can actually get it. Especially in the United States, most people know that if something happens that seriously harms or disables them, they can call an ambulance using 911, and within a few minutes, a medical team will arrive to assist them.
What’s more, the tools, techniques, medicines, and healing modalities have improved across the board, resulting in better diagnoses for whatever ailments humans present at the emergency room.
What Does the Future Hold for Aging?
For all of us, there is a genetically encoded length of our lives. The ways that our bodies break down over time are most would agree, unavoidable if given enough time. Things like cancer and heart disease will, at least for the foreseeable future, continue to cause ‘natural’ deaths for human beings based on their nature and what we know about how these diseases manifest.
With as many impressive technologies that exist today—things like the internet, Maglev trains, and Artificial Intelligence—one might think that science has a lot in store for us in the aging department. So, are scientists ready to start giving us super pills that make us live to 500 years old? Not quite.
Instead, what modern scientists and healthcare professionals are suggesting for a longer life is a lot of what we’ve already been hearing for the past 50 or so years. As it turns out, these three categories continue to be most important when determining how long we’ll live:
So, it’s best not to hold out for some marvel of medicine that is going to make us live forever. Instead, you have a better shot at living longer by saying no to the pizza, taking walks regularly, and watching your weight.
Although these lifestyle choices can add years to your life, there will eventually come a time where you'll need the assistance of others. When that time comes, contact Aging Resources of Douglas County to help get you started.
Blogs are written by ARDC staff members