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Rising Numbers of Elderly Will Pose Issues for Nations

Last Updated: October 02, 2009.

An anticipated rise in life expectancy, involving more than half of babies born in wealthy nations living to 100, will cause societal and economic challenges in coming decades, according to research published in the Oct. 3 issue of The Lancet.

FRIDAY, Oct. 2 (HealthDay News) -- An anticipated rise in life expectancy, involving more than half of babies born in wealthy nations living to 100, will cause societal and economic challenges in coming decades, according to research published in the Oct. 3 issue of The Lancet.

Kaare Christensen, M.D., of the University of Southern Denmark in Odense, and colleagues reviewed demographic trends around the world, and write that most babies born since 2000 in the United States, Canada, Japan, and several European countries should survive to at least 100 years of age.

The authors note that evidence from people under the age of 85 suggests that chronic diseases and conditions are rising, yet limitations and disabilities are being delayed until later in life. However, data on exceptionally old individuals are mixed, with some evidence pointing to some improvement in disability and other evidence suggesting, more recently, poorer health among the oldest. Given the changing ratio of the retirement-aged to the working-aged in many countries, a trend may be seen of more older people working part-time, and younger people working fewer hours, but for more years.

"Very long lives are not the distant privilege of remote future generations -- very long lives are the probable destiny of most people alive now in developed countries. Increasing numbers of people at old and very old ages will pose major challenges for health care systems. Present evidence, however, suggests that people are not only living longer than they did previously, but also they are living longer, with less disability and fewer functional limitations," the authors conclude.

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