The following is a bold and stunning prediction from The Social Security Administration (SSA)–see last sentence:
That mortality rates are found to continue to decline, at every age for which adequate data are available, demonstrates that no absolute limit to the biological life span for humans has yet been reached, and that such a limit is unlikely to exist.
The skeptical reader may assume that SSA is in cahoots with Congress to justify raising the age at which people can collect their Social Security benefits indefinitely and this prediction serves that purpose. However this is the conclusion SSA actuarial scientists have decided based on US years of mortality data. Here’s the sentence above in context:
Great strides were made in the twentieth century toward eliminating the hazards to survival which existed at the young ages in the early 1900’s. Very little additional improvement to survival rates is possible at these young ages. Survival rates at the older ages are projected to continue to improve steadily. Projected gains in the probability of surviving to age 90 during the next 50 years are about the same as experienced during the past 50 years. For age 100, projected gains are much greater than for the past. Figure 5 (last chart via link) shows population survival curves based on period life tables for, from left to right, 1900, 1950, 2000 and projected years 2050 and 2100.
Although the shape of the survivorship curve has become somewhat more rectangular (less diagonal) through time, it appears that very little additional rectangularization will occur because survival rates are already so high at the young ages and are expected to continue increasing at older ages. The so-called “curve squaring” concept, though appealing to many, simply cannot be supported by the mathematics of mortality. The age at which the survivorship curve comes close to zero, through the compounding of single-year probabilities of survival, has increased greatly during the twentieth century and will continue to increase, as further strides are made against degenerative diseases. That mortality rates are found to continue to decline, at every age for which adequate data are available, demonstrates that no absolute limit to the biological life span for humans has yet been reached, and that such a limit is unlikely to exist.
This prediction may have an effect on veterans’ benefits too, now and in the future.
Not everyone is going to be happy with the prospect of living decades past the age they thought they’d leave this mortal coil. Others will welcome the news with joy. After all, if a tortoise can live to 150 years, and Giant Sequoias for thousands of years, why can’t we hang out with them on this beautiful blue marble?
One thing is certain though, many people will be eager to help you leave this vale of tears if you reach an extreme age, infirm or not. Better fill out those advance directives while you can!
The 2009 period life table is here: http://www.ssa.gov/OACT/STATS/table4c6.html