One of the most extraordinary achievements of the last 100 years has been the sustained increase in life expectancy that has occurred across the world. In the UK, life expectancy at birth in 1920 was 57 and is now estimated to be 81. This is an increase of more than 2 years every decade. This new demographic shift has left to the rising importance of the longevity agenda.
In India, the rate of increase has been even more dramatic – from 25 to 69, or nearly 4.5 years every decade. This sustained increase was one of the factors which prompted me to write The 100 Year Life – Living and Working in an Age of Longevity. The focus of that book was on the importance of restructuring the life course in response to this increase in the length of life. There is a consequential need to move away from a three stage life of education, work and retirement. The aim was to change the narrative away from just a focus on end of life and an ageing society. We need to recognise that longevity is about a longer life which in turn has consequences for all of life.
The 100 Year Life and The Importance of the Longevity Agenda
The 100 Year Life was published in 2016 which coincided with a change in life expectancy trends in some countries. In the US, life expectancy has even started to decline and in the UK the rate of increase has slowed. As a consequence, I am often asked ‘Do we still need to be concerned about the prospect of a 100 year life?”. However a closer look at these recent trends reveals that the prospect of a 100 year life remains very real and that the importance of a longevity agenda has actually increased not diminished.
That’s due to three reasons – the gains already achieved in life expectancy irrespective of what future trends may bring; the likely length of life projecting forward even the current slower trends and finally the continual rise that is occurring in best practice life expectancy that is outstripping the UK.