Longer Lives Threatened by Global Divide Arguments

At a recent meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, a group of biologists discussed how, in the near future, people could expect to live 100 years. A longer, healthier life is good news to most, but predictably some speakers took a negative, almost pro-death, stance.

Stanford University biologist Dr. Shripad Tuljapurkar presented a model examining the demographic and economic effects of increased longevity. He said that between 2010 and 2030, anti-aging therapies will increase the normal lifespan by 20 years — an estimate many scientists consider “moderate.” He also predicted that an increase in longevity would create twice as many American retirees as working people. This, he said, would double the dependency ratio and increase the costs of Social Security and Medicare. That’s, of course, if everything stays the same.

A System in Danger

In a scenario where people are living longer and healthier lives, it’s likely that the retirement age would increase and that most people would want it that way. Indeed, Dr. Tuljapurkar generated an estimate of such a scenario and concluded that the retirement age would have to climb to 85 in order to keep current social systems from collapsing.

Social Security reform has been a serious issue for a number of years. Many policy watchers already think the system will collapse because of sheer mismanagement. Adding increased life spans to the mix just makes things more difficult, but not everyone was pessimistic.

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