Health & Science

When 100 years old is normal; Menu calorie counts: No effect; Flu medicine is for the birds; Making hard things look easier

When 100 years old is normal

Children born since 2000 have a good chance of being alive in 2100. A new Danish study finds that if current health trends continue, more than half of all babies born in industrialized countries since the year 2000 will live to the age of 100. In the U.S., life expectancy for kids born today is likely to rise to 104. “I guess it’s good news for individuals and a challenge for societies,” epidemiologist Kaare Christensen tells The data, drawn from more than 30 countries, shows that life expectancy has been steadily rising, with the odds of a person living past age 80 doubling since 1950. “If life expectancy were approaching a limit,’’ Christensen says, “some deceleration of progress would probably occur.’’ But the line is still heading upward. In the early 20th century, longevity rose thanks mostly to a reduction in infant mortality rates. Since then, and especially since the 1970s, the boost has come from medical advancements in treating the elderly. People are living longer, and with fewer disabilities, than ever, and in coming decades, medical advances such as stem-cell therapy are likely to postpone deaths from heart disease, cancer, and other chronic illnesses. The bad news is that societies with tens of millions of people in their 80s and 90s will face unprecedented demands on their health-care and retirement systems, and new economic and social challenges, as older employees wait ever longer to retire, Christensen says. On the other hand, he points out, “I don’t hear any concerns among the elderly that they are living too long.”

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