A large swath of the population, however, view living into one’s hundreds as a life sentence to a living vegetative state, however evidence suggests that the rate of exceptional assistance required by people in the greater-than-100 crowd is not much different than it is for the typically old aged crowd of 85-99 years of age. This suggests that if you are healthy enough to make it to 100 you are probably well enough to be alright on your own more than one might initially think.
Some excerpts from an article published in The Age:
Most evidence [of growing longevity for those aged under 85] suggests postponement of limitations and disabilities [as the reason for increasing life expectancy], despite an [overall] increase in chronic diseases and conditions…This is at least partly accounted for by early diagnosis, improved treatment, and amelioration of prevalent diseases so that they are less disabling.I find this article to offer a good mix of information and encourage you to read it all the way through. It’s not too long.
However, for people aged over 85 the situation is less clear. There is widespread concern that exceptional longevity from medical advances comes with “huge personal and societal costs.”
Some students of ageing [say] the fourth age [the ''oldest old''] will generally be characterized by vulnerability, with little identity, psychological autonomy and personal control. An increasing number of individuals [will reach] their 10th and 11th decades in frail states of health, with many existing in a vegetative state. However, a study of US super-centenarians aged 110-119 found that about 40 percent needed little assistance or were independent, suggesting that super-centenarians are not more disabled than are people aged 92 years.
We are currently in an awkward stage in the human condition. Much like a young teen goes through an awkward stage between childhood and adulthood our older population is experiencing the same thing. Right now medicine is able to keep people alive much longer than in decades past but the lifestyles of our oldest people has always been based on a mortality schedule that was much shorter. Bodies break down as directed but new medicine keeps them alive anyway. This results in the “huge personal and societal costs” as mentioned above.
What is not spelled out in the article, but yet I believe firmly, is that younger generations of people today… especially the youngest, are being bred in this age of new (extreme) medicine and their lifestyles are going to be ever more increasingly supportive of the exceptional longevity now possible. As these healthier bodies age they will be more on par with medical possabilities and thus those extreme years between 85 and 110 won’t feel or look quite as extreme.
I’ve said it before; investing in your body with the foods you eat and the lifestyle choices you make will pay off big time as you get older. Medicine can keep you going for a long time; it’s up to you however to prepare for this longevity so that you can continue enjoying life until the very end.
The Age, October 3, 2009