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How long will we live?

There's no doubt that the longevity statistics in our society are changing dramatically. Whether it's our own longevity or that of those around us, this trend has huge implications for our lives.

What is longevity?

Longevity, also known as life expectancy, is the length of a person�s life. Early explorers have searched for the fountain of youth and immortality, scientists have pondered the factors that lengthen human lifespan, and each one of us has wondered how long our time will be.

While the average life span has increased dramatically over the last century, the maximum life span has not. If you were born in 1900, you could expect to live 50 years and the maximum was about 120.  Today, the average is more than 75 years but the maximum has stayed the same.

Authenticated records confirm that the longest living human was Frenchwoman Jeanne Calment, who lived 122.4 years � from February 1875 to August 1997. Calment was 14 years old in 1889, the year the Eiffel Tower was built and she met Vincent Van Gogh.

How is life expectancy calculated?

Life expectancy in any given year is the average length of time an infant born in that year is expected to live . It is the number of years that you would expect to live, starting at your birth. For example, a Canadian male born in 1920 could expect to live to be 59 years old, a Canadian female 61.

Another way to define life expectancy is years left to live, on average, for older adults. If you are 76 years old now, your life expectancy is approximately 11 more years.

Centenarians Club on a growth curve!

People who live to 100 are known as centenarians. The worldwide number of centenarians is now estimated around 450,000. In 2005, the U.S. had the greatest number � more than 55,000 � and Japan was second with 25,000.

In Canada the number of centenarians rose from 3,125 to 3,795 - a 21% increase between 1996 and 2001 . This is phenomenal, considering the life expectancy of their generation was only 56 years! Of note, the ratio of centenarian women to men is 4 to 1.

Today, our fastest-growing population segment is the "oldest old" - those greater than 80 years of age. In Canada, this group's numbers have soared 41% between 1991-2001.

The Biblical character, Methuselah, reportedly lived 969 years. The world�s oldest living organism, a 4,700-year-old bristlecone pine, is also aptly named Methuselah. What implications do our increasing numbers of Methuselahs have for you and your family, your business, or your workplace?

� ElderWise Inc. 2006

You have permission to reprint this article if you reproduce it in its entirety, acknowledge our copyright, and include the following statement: Originally published by ElderWise Inc., Canada's �go to� place for midlife and older adults seeking information and support on health, housing and relationships. Visit us at and subscribe to our FREE bi-weekly newsletter.


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