It’s starting to get crowded in the 100-year-olds club. According to the Associated Press, there will be nearly 6 million centenarians by the year 2050. It’s going to push the average age close to 50 in many countries, and it’ll change what it means to be “old.” Back in 1950, there were only a few thousand people who lived to be 100. That number has jumped to over 340,000 today, with most located in the United States and Japan. According to the Census Bureau, people over 100 are the fastest growing age group, projected to grow at 20 times the rate of the total population. In a nutshell, the future is full of old people!
Why? Because of improved diets and lifestyles, which have reduced heart disease and stroke. Also, thanks to medical advances, doctors are willing to treat people who used to be considered too old for certain procedures. Japan will have the most centenarians in 2050, likely because of their low-fat, fish-filled diet. Countries such as Greece, Italy and Singapore will also have large numbers of centenarians. By mid-century, the U.S. will have more than 600,000 people over the age of 100, most of them baby-boomers.
Dr. Robert Butler is president and chief executive of the International Longevity Center, a New York-based nonprofit group that specializes in aging. He says there are a lot of implications of living so long. Pension and health care costs will go up, and he predicts a surge in demand for senior villages, nursing homes and assisted living centers. Some communities are already preparing. Right now, the American Association of Retired Persons is doing a pilot project in Albert Lea, Minnesota. They’re working with the city to make it easier to get around on foot or bicycle, developing more social opportunities, and providing healthier fast-food options. If it’s a success, they’re hoping to expand to other cities. If we’re going to live to 100 and beyond, we should start doing all we can NOW to stay healthy and productive - so we can enjoy it.