Is 75 The New 65? Wealthy Countries Need To Rethink What It Means To Be Old

Senior Couple --- Image by © Brooke Fasani Auchincloss/Corbis

In 1950, men and women at age 65 could expect to live about 11 years more on average.

Today, that number has gone up to 17, and the United Nations forecasts that it will increase by about five more years by the end of the century.

One consequence of the increase in life expectancy is that the proportion of the population above age 65 has increased, too. In policy analyses and in the media, increases in these proportions are frequently taken to mean that the population will keep getting older. This is often interpreted as warning of a forthcoming crisis.

As researchers who study aging, we believe that it’s better to think about older people not in terms of their chronological ages, but in terms of their remaining life expectancy.

In our study, published on Feb. 26, we explored the implications of this alternative view for assessing the likely future of population aging. We found that, using this new perspective, population aging in high-income countries will likely come to an end shortly after the middle of the century.

Age inflation

Sixty-five-year-olds today are not like 65-year-olds in 1900. Today’s older people on average live longer, are healthier and score higher on cognitive tests.

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