My good friend the evolutionary biologist and expert on old age,
Tom Kirkwood, has made a splash in my local newspaper, The
Newcastle Journal, by writing to all three British party leaders to
ask them to emphasise the positive rather than the negative aspects
of people living longer.
Our studies are revealing high levels of
capability and good quality life among people who are well into
their 80s. They are not all in poor health needing high levels of
care. Indeed, many view their health as 'excellent' and still live
highly independent lives.
I point out in The Rational Optimist that the average lifespan
has increased by a third during my lifetime; life expectancy is
increasing globally by 5 hours a day. Kirkwood's Changing Age Charter, like my book, says:
Increased life spans represent one of
humanity's greatest achievements
Of course two real problems do still exist: people who need care
in old age and cannot afford it, and increasingly unsustainable
commitments from a relatively shrinking workforce to pay pensions
for longer. Such unfunded commitments could still bust many western
economies if unreformed.
Neither problem is insoluble. Part of the solution is
progressively later retirement, especially if people are in
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