August 02, 2012
Plan To Live To Be 100 Years Old?

A retirement article on MarketWatch argues we should plan to live to be 100.

Consider: According to the mortality tables, there’s a two-thirds chance that a male who’s age 55 today will live to age 80. Imagine if you play the odds as if you were at a Blackjack table — and plan on being among those who die before age 80, but don’t.

If you do not smoke, are not obese, don't have high blood sugar or high blood pressures, or other major risk factors then your odds of reaching 80 are much higher.

My take on the mortality tables: they are excessively pessimistic. The mortality tables assume a fairly static biomedical treatment environment in which only small incremental improvements to medical care are possible. No discontinuities are part of the forecast. This seems a very big mistake. On the horizon we can see the approach of effective gene therapies, cell therapies, and other treatments that attack the underlying mechanisms of aging. The scientists doing research on these treatments will succeed. Once they do we will have biotechnology that enables us to repair aged tissue.

For a long time mortality has declined fairly slowly. That's because we've had no tools for attacking the underlying mechanisms of aging. Our bodies gradually wear out just like bodies 50 or 100 years ago. We've got medical treatments that reduce the consequences of failing tissue (e.g. blood pressure medicine) and treatments that slow the rate of development of some types of problems (e.g. cholesterol lowering drugs). But we can't do much about the rate at which we accumulate mutations or the rate at which a href="">we accumulate toxic intracellular junk.

We aren't going to stay helpless against aging tissues. The legions of scientists experimenting with pluripotent stem cells, tissue engineering, gene therapies, and other promising therapies will succeed and they will succeed in the first half of the 21st century. Once we can fix and replace failing parts the mortality tables go out the window as we gain the ability to do what we can now do to old cars: replace parts and keep on going. At some point in the 21st century we will reach actuarial escape velocity where the rate at which we can repair the body exceeds the rate at which pieces of the body wear out and fail. Our rejuvenated bodies will then go on for many more decades and eventually centuries.

In a nutshell: If you are in your 30s or below I think your odds of dying of old age are remote. Whether folks in their 40s, 50s, and beyond will live to benefit from rejuvenation therapies probably depends on how long they will live naturally. Someone who is 50 years old and has 40 years to go even without biomedical advances will certainly live long enough to enjoy the benefits of biotechnologies that will enable them to live well beyond 90 years.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2012 August 02 10:15 PM  Aging Reversal

Sione said at August 3, 2012 11:56 AM:

Bill Milliken, of Milliken Associates, died last Saturday. He was over 100 years of age. He remained very active throughout his life, even racing a self-built open wheer (the Milliken "camber-car") at Goodwood well into his 90s. He was a very active man who lived an amazing life, contributing to aircraft control (eg. from the era of the B-29 and on into the age of jet aircraft) and then progressing into automobile dynamics (where he developed many novel and useful approaches such as the moment method).

The trouble is that most people who live as long as he did become frail sufferers of chronic debilitations and vexaions of one sort or another- pincushions for sicknesses as they circle the around the drain. The question necessarily arises that if people are going to live to more advanced ages, who is going to fund them during their extended retirements.


Nick G said at August 3, 2012 2:50 PM:


Health and longevity are closely related. People who live longer will also tend to get disabling problems later.

Abelard Lindsey said at August 3, 2012 3:05 PM:

If you are in your 30s or below I think your odds of dying of old age are remote.

Yes, and this should be the base assumption underlying anyone's career/financial planning. More specifically, "retirement" in the conventional meaning will go the way of the horse and buggy. You have to acquire skills (technical, etc.) and continuously expand your personal and professional capabilities. Your future life depends on this.

In short, you have to look out for yourself. You cannot rely on anyone or anything to support you.

PacRim Jim said at August 4, 2012 1:30 AM:

Given the rate of acceleration of medical innovation, by extending one's life a decade or so, one could well end up extending one's life by much longer, which then would give one time to have it extended much longer.
At some point, a person would reach escape velocity — escape from natural death.
The Great Divide will occur in this century.

KMarx said at August 4, 2012 3:36 PM:

I plan on ten more years tops - then Obama care will kill me. Until then I hope to be a massive burden on other taxpayers - this country has really gone to hell.

Robert Arvanitis said at August 4, 2012 4:16 PM:

So Leonard Hayflick was wrong?

MP Campbell said at August 4, 2012 4:44 PM:

If you've got Excel, you can try out my spreadsheet from here:

[in the right margin]

You can try Social Security calendar year 2010 tables, or you can use annuitant tables (more optimistic) -- and you can also lay on mortality improvement, 1% per year, which is just a gross factor to give an idea of the impact

100 is a bit much for many people, even with mortality improvement, but living to 90 is well within reason at relatively high probabilities, even going off current experience.

K Scott said at August 4, 2012 6:12 PM:

Life course is a very "deep" biological fact for organic beings, i.e. it goes back to the simplest animals and it exists among the plants. So when you say that humans are going to live forever because we are going to be repaired (like machines, like classic cars)that seems to me to be ignoring all the rest of organic existence. Humans are special but not the human body. Don't you think that we will just sort of wither when we don't die of stroke or diabetes? Like an autumn leaf?

bbartlog said at August 5, 2012 9:25 AM:

'Retirement' will just mean 'collecting enough investments that now you can live off the income stream forever'. Practically speaking, that's not really to different from where we are now. The amount you need in order to retire for 30 years is not hugely different from what you would need in order to retire indefinitely (all other things being equal... which actually they aren't).
I think it will be a matter of some importance which rejuvenation therapies we discover first. Having a bunch of centenarians running around with healthy bodies and ossified minds would be kind of a bummer.

solaris said at August 6, 2012 8:47 AM:

>>'Retirement' will just mean 'collecting enough investments that now you can live off the income stream forever'.

In a world where people live forever, 100% of people will be retired. Which raises the question of where the income stream to live on will come from.

Brett Bellmore said at August 7, 2012 4:26 AM:

IIRC, if you assume aging goes away, but accidental deaths still continue, the average life expectancy would only be something like 120. Essentially people would have "half-lives" instead of life expectancies, but they wouldn't "live forever". And there's still be new people being born, and having to work to accumulate that nest egg.

Though what they'd be working at, when robots will be more affordable than people for pretty much everything in a few decades, I don't know.

bbartlog said at August 7, 2012 8:43 PM:

'Which raises the question of where the income stream to live on will come from.'
Given the likely expense of rejuvenation therapies, I think it will be a long time before everyone could be retired indefinitely. But yes, when I said that all other things weren't equal, I meant that as the population of those who want to save for retirement increases, the real return to investments will drop (i.e. the demand for income streams will drive up the price / drive down the interest). So only some (most successful) fraction will actually be able to retire.

Eric Patton said at August 7, 2012 8:49 PM:

Cancer is one of the big killers, as is car accidents. Obviously people are already working on the different varieties of cancer, which may take longer to fix than the car problem. Most car accidents are caused by driver error, so we can aid or remove the driver from the equation for safety purposes. Google has had some success with their auto-piloted car, they've racked up 300,000 miles without an accident.

If we can use higher strength materials we can also greatly reduce the number of people killed by car wrecks.

The most common killers will be taken out of the equation if we can keep up the technological innovation.

Nick G said at August 8, 2012 4:14 PM:


I believe the population half-life would be about 600 years, at the current accident rate. Of course, Eric is right: if accidents were the only cause of death, the accident rate would go way, way down.

Conor said at October 4, 2012 3:21 PM:

If technology allows me to be he healthy for many more decades, why would I retire? Retirement planning is mostly for when one becomes incapable of being productive. Change jobs to something you like, maybe, but why assume you have to accumulate assets to live on for 40 years or more? Longevity should mean rethinking the whole concept of retirement.

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