Do you want to live to be 100? Living to 100, once a rarity in the U.S., is on the rise. Centenarians now number around 82,000, up from 50,000 in 2002, according to census figures; those 100-plus are the country’s second-fastest growing age group, just after those 85 and older. In the next decade, the number of centenarians is expected to rise to about 140,000. Researchers think we can live even longer: While average life expectancy for men is 76 and women is 81, the limit of human life is widely set at 122, the reported age of Jeanne Calment, who died in 1997.
People marvel at the eldest, especially the healthy ones, and ask what they eat and drink and do for exercise, in hopes of learning their secrets. But many aren’t so sure they want to live that long. A 2018 Harris Poll, conducted on behalf of the University of Phoenix, found that 59% of American adults say living to 100 has too many risks to be worthwhile. And those who would like to live that long set conditions: Just over 70% want to be 100 as long as they don’t look 100.
As life expectancy has risen, so has the incidence of some diseases. The number of people with Alzheimer’s and other dementias has grown to 5.8 million in 2019 from 4.7 million in 2010, a 23% increase, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.
The question becomes whether the advantages of living longer—like seeing great-great-grandchildren and witnessing medical or technological breakthroughs—are worth physical and mental limits that come along with it. Some people feel 85 or 90 years are plenty. Others who aspire to be 100 change their minds after visiting a long-lived friend in a memory-care unit.
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