Even If You Could, Who Would Really Want to Live to 100? More People Than You Think
According to a new study from Edward Jones and Age Wave, almost seven out of 10 North Americans are hoping to hit the 100th birthday milestone. Photo: Halfpoint Images/Getty Images
Longevity may be the most important trend we’ve ever experienced. It’s driven by — and in turn, it affects — everything from health to housing, money to technology, lifestyle to social policy. There’s so much to be aware of — and it’s just getting started! Now you can keep up with all the latest developments in this weekly column.
For as long as I’ve been observing extreme longevity and the reinvention of aging, the conventional wisdom was that even if living to 100 were achievable, most people wouldn’t care to do it.
It was seen as a novelty, an outlier, an achievement whose exotic nature masked all kinds of downside: physical decline, mental decline, outliving your money …
But now we can say, “Oh, really?”
According to a new study from Edward Jones and Age Wave, almost seven out of 10 North Americans are hoping to hit that milestone.
The survey polled 11,000 people in Canada and the U.S. for their attitudes toward longevity and retirement, and the results are summarized in this article. Some highlights:
- 70 per cent of respondents want to reach 100
- 29 years is seen as the “ideal” length of retirement. That would imply “retiring” at 71, if 100 was the ultimate goal. (But as we know, the one-size-fits-all concept of retiring at 65 is already long gone.)
- Respondents drew a clear distinction between retirement as their parents knew it (“golden years”…”rest and relaxation”) and retirement as they see it — “a new chapter in life”
- They were definitely aware of the risk of outliving their money — and were worried about it — but it didn’t stop them from still wanting to hit that century milestone
- In response to that financial issue, nearly 60 per cent expect to keep working in some way — full-time, part-time or alternating between work and leisure
These findings make perfect sense.
For one thing, living to 100, while still remarkable, is no longer the outlier it used to be. In fact, centenarians are the fastest growing age group, in percentage terms. There are over 90,000 centenarians in the U.S., and about 10,000 in Canada — and more than half a million worldwide. As we observe more people reaching this age, the possibilities become more realistic.
At the same time, it’s observably apparent that more people are aging in better health. It’s not unreasonable to think of a lifespan of 20 to 30 years after hitting the traditional retirement age of 65, and of having plenty to do (and being able to do it) during those years. The notion of living to 100 as a burden, as something that is bound to include pain and suffering and not much else, is rapidly becoming obsolete. Not living to 100 will, gradually but steadily, mean you’re being short-changed.
So I’m not surprised at the findings of this survey. And before we know it, researchers could be asking, “If you could, would you want to live to 150?” (Hint: YES!)
David Cravit is a Vice-President at ZoomerMedia, and Chief Membership Officer of CARP. He is also the author of two books on the “reinvention” of aging. You can check out some of his other writing here.