Humans have long been searching for the fountain of youth and perhaps without realizing it we are slowly but surely knocking on the door. Today we are on the fringe of a revolution whereby reaching 100 is very soon to be the norm. 27% of today’s under 16 year olds in Britain will reach 100 according to the Office for National Statistics, but not only will we soon reach the century mark but according to some, we will do so whilst remaining healthy!
With each passing year humanity gains approximately 3 months of life and has been doing so for the past 175 years.
If around three months were continually added with each passing year, we can calculate that by 2100 living to 100 would be the norm. Meaning we can be quite confident that our great-grandchildren will be part of a generation of centenarians!
For millennia, human life expectancy was very short. Those who reached 40 were considered fortunate with those reaching an elderly age considered blessed by the gods.
During the 19th century things slowly changed. Since 1840, life expectancy at birth has risen about three months with each passing year. When the 20th century began, life expectancy at birth in America was 47 years; now newborns are expected to live 79 years. If about three months continue to be added with each passing year, by the middle of this century, American life expectancy
at birth will be 88 years and by the end of the century, it will be 100 years!
For those living to 100+ today there doesn’t seem to be much of a trend as to why they have lived so long and is unfortunately likely down to their blessed genetics. A study of over 100’s found that they had varied diets, with some drinking regularly and some even smoking. This doesn’t seem to be much of a cause for their longevity but one interesting reasoning mentioned was keeping themselves busy and keeping a positive attitude and outlook on life. In a way it’s just like the placebo effect; the power of consciousness over body. The placebo effect is still today one of sciences great mysteries, according to Dr. Keith Holden a physician with a special interest in mind-body medicine explains that; ‘’the placebo effect emphasizes the importance of belief in overall health and wellness. Be positive in what you say and be discerning about what you believe. Your body-mind is listening.’’ According to Dr. Thomas Tutko, Sports Psychologist; "your emotions affect every cell in your body. Mind and body, mental and physical, are intertwined." Numerous studies have also found that positive feelings can boost our immune system. Who knew it was so simple? Of course we cannot attribute mind-body to everything, one cannot deny the impact of modern medicine on life expectancy, but perhaps the key is in a combination of the two.
So what does all this mean? If millions of people were to live beyond 100, will we be living in a world of shortened prunes? With pensions, care homes and sustainability issues, our appearance is the last thing we should be thinking of nevertheless it does come to mind; after all we are bombarded by beautiful and unrealistic portrayals of people every day in the media.
For as long as human beings have searched for the fountain of youth, they have also feared the consequences of extended life. Today we are on the cusp of a revolution that may finally resolve that tension; advances in medicine and biotechnology will radically increase not just our life spans but also, crucially, our health and even appearances. Just maybe the focus should be on mind over body and happiness- What’s the point of living a long life span without it after all?