Longevity and reality

People are living longer today — a lot longer. Whether it is because of better medical care or healthier lifestyles, today’s population is living a lot longer than its parents or grandparents.

Recent discussions with friends and a physician prompted us to try to quantify just how much longer we are living. Luckily, the government (in the form of the Centers for Disease Control) has a ton of studies that zero in on longevity.

For example, in 1950, there were 150,697,000 people living in the United States. Of that number, only 577,000 were 85 or older.*

Jump ahead to 2012. Our total population had more than doubled to 313,914,000. But the number of people living past 85 had increased tenfold to 5,887,000. And in 2014, the Census Bureau estimated that the number of elderly people in the U.S. — those 65 or older — would double again by 2050.

Moreover, the total percentage of our population that can be classified as elderly is increasing dramatically. In 1950, 12,195,000 people, or 8.09 percent of the population, were 65 or older.

In 2012, 43,145,000, or 13.74 percent of the U.S. citizenry, were at least 65. That represents a more than 50 percent increase in the number of folks classified as elderly.

As we live longer, it seems apparent that reality is going to force adjustments to our thinking when it comes to things like entitlements and retirement. Sixty may not yet be the new 50, but it is edging closer to being the new 55. Gradually increasing the age at which individuals qualify for Medicare, Social Security and even private pension plans is inevitable.

And, despite what politicians might tell you, that is not decreasing benefits. Those retiring 10 or 20 years from now, will likely live to collect as many years’ worth of benefits as anybody in this generation.

The longer we live, the longer we are going to have to work.

*Sources: www.cdc.gov/nchs/hus/contents2013.htm#001 — Table 1. Resident population, by age, sex, race, and Hispanic origin: United States, selected years 1950-2012 and Reuters Health News, May 6, 2014.

* Editorials reflect the opinion of the publisher.