15 minutes ‘added to our life expectancy every hour’
Babies who are born today will live until 104, claims ageing expert
LIFE expectancy is increasing at a rate of fifteen minutes each hour, according to an ageing expert.
Babies born today are now expected to live to 104 on average, Professor Sarah Harper of Oxford University said.
She warned that people living longer will trigger huge challenges for society and we will have to rethink how we lead our lives, such as whether marriage should last for a lifetime.
People could spend much of their lives as pensioners, while some may not inherit from grandparents until they are in their 80s. By the end of the century there will be 1.5 million centenarians in the UK. Currently there are 14,500.
Speaking at the Hay Festival, Professor Harper, who founded Oxford’s Institute of Ageing, said we are ‘pushing back death considerably’ and half the population now could reach their eighties.
She said: ‘We are gaining roughly 2.5 years of life expectancy per decade, or fifteen minutes an hour. Predictions suggest that, of the babies that are currently being born, the real life expectancy will be 104. In Japan it is 107.
‘ We are really talking about extending lives in a way we haven’t experienced before. We have to start asking ourselves about the worlds we are going to live in with these very long lives.
‘We take it for granted that we will pass power, assets and status down the generations at regular timings. What happens when you don’t inherit from your grandparents until you’re in your eighties? What happens in our workplaces? What happens in our societies, when we have these huge long gaps?’ She added that divorce rates could rise and that ‘even the institution of marriage’ – and whether we want to stick with a partner for so many decades – needs to be thought about.
Professor Harper, who recently led a study for the Government on the effects of ageing, said robotics will be ‘very beneficial’ for helping older people stay in work, pointing out those in their 60s a generation ago would struggle to make a car but now they can sit at computers operating robots.
She also said obesity is not hitting life expectancy that much, but it is still a problem because while people won’t die much earlier, they will be disabled for longer. ‘ Obesity only decreases life expectancy by 1.5 years, but it increases disabled years by six years,’ she warned. ‘ That is extraordinary [and] not positive.’
Drivers are better off using maps because satnavs overcomplicate long journeys, an expert has said.
Cardiff University academic Dr Rhyd Lewis said the devices were better for short journeys where they did not have to make assumptions about your speed or traffic.
Speaking at the festival, Dr Lewis said: ‘My advice would be to use a map to plan your overall journey.’