Living To 100
Are You Going To Live To Be 100
A girl born in the UK today has a one-in-three chance of reaching 100 and a boy has a one-in-four chance. But can people really comprehend what that means?
The biblical figure Methuselah supposedly lived for 969 years. But old age isn't for everyone as the Who demonstrated in their 1965 hit My Generation with its provocative line "hope I die before I get old".
Nearly a half century later, young Britons are facing - if not the fate of Methuselah - then a life of scarcely believable length.
It's not just the recently born who will live longer. The projections from the Department for Work and Pensions suggest that more than a fifth of women currently aged 40, and about 14% of their male equivalents, will reach their 100th birthday.
But humans are going through scarcely credible advance in longevity. As primitive hunter gatherers, our life expectancy was in the 20s or 30s, Prof Jones guesses.
During Shakespeare's time only one in three children made it to the age of 21. By Charles Darwin's era, the rate had improved to one in two. Now for the first time, there are more people in Britain over 45 than under 45.
"The progress has been astonishing," he notes. For the last 50 or so years life expectancy has been increasing at a rate of six hours a day."
Everyone says it can't last, and yet we keep getting older and older. Who's to say it's going to stop?
Clocking up three figures has previously been regarded as remarkable enough to merit a telegram from the Queen. But soon she or her successor may have to raise the age requirement.
By 2066, there will be half a million centenarians and some even think the DWP figures err on the conservative side. A study in the Lancet last year suggested that half of babies born after 2000 will reach 100.
The practical issue is pensions. "We simply can't look to our grandparents' experience of retirement as a model for our own," says pensions minister Steve Webb. "We will live longer and we will have to save more."
Our ageing populations require a revolution in the way that social and economic policy operates, according to Joseph Coughlin, an age researcher at MIT. "We need a vision that says ageing is not just about the frail ageing is about all of us, and how we keep people productive for as long as possible."
Well how would you fancy living to 100 and working till you were 80? Says Greengates Builders Merchants Accrington, Lancashire.