The Challenges of Longevity
One of the challenges of increasing longevity is finding the financial resources to support aging Americans into retirement, as well as covering healthcare costs, Dr. Butler says. At the same time, he says the picture isn't all grim—older Americans are finding ways to reinvent themselves, postponing retirement and therefore funneling significantly more money into pensions and social welfare programs. Additionally, by changing the ceiling on the Social Security tax base, Dr. Butler says this federally funded program could be managed effectively.
The real concern, Dr. Butler says, is health insurance. But the problems in this arena could also be addressed through such developments as better and cheaper medical treatments, improved preventative healthcare measures and better management of chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. These efforts will enable the elderly to enjoy a higher quality of life for a greater number of years, he says.
Dr. Butler says individuals play perhaps the greatest role in taking care of their own health and wellness as they age—something that's already proving true with nearly the 80,000 people already over the age of 100 living in the United States today. According to one U.S. Census Bureau estimate, by mid-century, there will be 840,000 centenarians in the country. The great news, Dr. Butler says, is that about 75 percent of them remain independent through their 95th year. "It's not like they're just drains on society," he says. "They actually also enjoy health, and the healthier you've been, the longer you will live."