By Vlad Tverdohleb
July 27, 2015 | iTech Post
The advances in medicine allow us to live longer. And the new life extension therapies based on genetic engineering, stem cells, replacement organ implants and nanotechnologies will increase the life expectation of our generation far beyond anything possible in the past.
There are already many experts claiming that an individual born today might reach the venerable age of 1000. In our days increased longevity is achieved not only in developed countries such as the U.S., but also across the globe. This trend will drive tremendous changes in retirement, economy, workplace, social norms and more. Longevity brings opportunities but challenges as well.
Leading experts on global retirement, such as the executive director of the Global Coalition on Aging, Mike Hodin, offered some insight on the deep structural changes expected to lead to a retirement crisis.
People are living longer today and the scale of the transformation is huge. According to Mike Hodin, this can be considered as a mega trend larger than anything that exists today. The expert expects tremendous economic, sociological and historic changes that we, as a society never seen before. He compares the scale of this shift to the industrial revolution or the advent of the women's movement. We can expect this historic sift to be profoundly disruptive on multiple plans.
According to Hodin, this change is already taking place and the trend is going on through the 21st century. This cannot be considered to be connected only to the baby boomer phenomenon but it is much larger in implications. With the advances in medicine and science, today hundred-year life spans are something very common. Such kind of worldwide longevity in general masses of population has been never experienced before in human history. In the past, there were certain individuals able to attain a respectable age, but this was the exceptions rather than the rule.
We are also seeing very low birth rates everywhere in the world, at the same time with a generalized increased longevity. This is a consequence of societies urbanizing and modernizing. This is happening even across emerging markets in Latin America, Asia and Africa. However, in the most developed countries, the trend is stronger. In Japan, for instance, it is estimated that by the year 2020, more than one-third of population will be over 60. At this high percent of elders, the social systems put in place in Japan after WWII, like health care, retirement and pension, will no longer work.
The U.S. experience a similar situation to Japan and other developed European countries. As a great beneficiary of longevity, the U.S. is on the top of the list when it comes to healthy aging. The current birthrate in the U.S., of about 2.1, is more than in countries like the U.K., Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, Canada, Australia or Japan, which are all under 1.5.
The U.S. is a healthier economic place that allows managing a bit easier this transition process. Even being in a better position, this does not make the United States immune to challenges. There is still a need to better prepare for this transformation. Since most of the modern institutions and public policies in place today were invented during the 20th century, they need to be adapted to the new challenges. For programs such as Medicare or Social Security the arithmetic already doesn't work anymore.