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Welcome to Matt Ridley's Blog
Matt Ridley is the author of provocative books on evolution, genetics and society. His books have sold over a million copies, been translated into thirty languages, and have won several awards.

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The bright side of living longer

People are not only spending a longer time living, but a shorter time dying.

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 `excellent' health.