People are living longer – this represent one of the top global achievements of the last century. There are many factors why this is happening, many reasons to celebrate this success. But there are also many predicted challenges for forthcoming generations. What about this trend? What are the motives behind it? And what about its lifecycle, will it eventually begin to fade? Is there really an upper limit to human aging?
Mortality experts have many times in the history estimated the maximum age of humans. But time after time it has been exceeded (Science, 2002). A research made in 2002 shows that life expectancy in the country with highest life expectancy (which can change from one year to another) has increased by about 2,5 years per decade since the mid 19th century. That is an increase of three months every year. The fact that the increase has been constant, with only few variations during all these years makes it a very strong trend. Furthermore, there are no clear signs for it to slow in the future either. (Science, 2002)
Great factors for this trend are improvements in public health, nutrition, medicine and declines in fertility (Royal Geographical Society, 2016). Global health expert Hans Rosling claims that another great impact is the fact that we are on our way winning the war against child death in the world. (TED, 2010) A result of all this is that the oldest old now is the fastest growing population in many countries. In a global perspective, the population aged 85 or over is projected to increase with 351 percent between the years 2010- 2050. The increase for 65-and-over population will be 188 percent, but only 22 percent for the population under the age of 65. (National Institute on Aging, 2015) Furthermore, this will leave us with a population where the elderly have outnumbered the young children. (Global Health, 2011)
There is an ongoing debate about the meaning of a longer life. Will a longer life also be healthier, or will the additional years be spent in poor health? We know that diseases rise sharply with age, but at the same time there is evidence from cross national data showing that it is fully possible for elderly to remain healthy and independent with the potential to continue to contribute to their communities and families, as long as there are appropriate policies and programs developed. But the trend will surely bring socioeconomics challenges in both developed and developing countries in the decades to come, not least within the infrastructure of health care system. (Global Health, 2011) Furthermore, the long lasting impact this trend will leave on society is evidence for this trend to be a global megatrend of today. (Ponten. H, 2016)
So where is this trend in its lifecycle?
Well, data mentioned above shows it is on a rise, and will continue so for decades to come. But for how long? Scientist are discussing if a biological maximum age does exist, which is kind of a scary thought. There are existing animals that can live over 400 years (The Conversation, 2013), so what if it would be biologically possible for humans as well? No one can know for sure. Today’s human age limit belongs to Jeanne Louise Calment who was born in 1875 in France. She reached an age of 122 years and 164 days, and is the only person ever lived past the age of 120 (Guinnes World Records, 2016). Even if experts in history have given us the wrong estimated maximum age over and over, there is a belief of an aging limit. We just don’t know when it will be reached or how high it can become. (The conversation, 2013)
My question for you:
Which mesotrends do you argue derives from this megatrend?
Global Health. (2011) Global Health and aging. Retrieved 2016-09-16, from
Guinnes World Records. (2016) Oldest person ever. Retrieved 2016-09-14, from
National Institute on Aging. (2015) Living longer. Retrieved 2016-09-15, from
Ponten, H. (2016). Lecture 2: Trends and Brands [PDF document]. Retrieved 2016-09-14, from
Royal Geographical Society. (2016) Who wants to live forever? – Why are people living longer? Retrieved 2016-09-15, from
Science. (2002) Broken Limits to Life Expectancy. Retrieved 2016-09-14, from
Ted. (2010) The good news o the decade? We are winning the war against child mortality. Retrieved 2016-09-15, from
The Conversation. (2013) Lust for life: breaking the 120-year barrier in human ageing. Retrieved 2016-09-15, from