Ideal Lifespan Is Somewhere Between 79 And 100: How Long Do You Want To Live?

Aging Generations
A recent survey finds that most Americans don't want to live past 100 years old. Viridiano Barrios

Currently, the average life expectancy for an American, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, is 78.7 years. Be that as it may, eight percent of Americans believe that the 'ideal' lifespan runs longer than 100 years, while 69 percent say the ideal is somewhere in the range of 79 to 100 years — longer than the current statistical average. The remaining 14 percent of Americans would hope that life ends in 78 years or less. Seemingly, it follows that when asked whether they, personally, would choose to undergo treatments to slow their aging and live beyond 120, more than half of U.S. adults unhesitatingly answered "no."

About two-thirds, though, think that most people would naturally say 'yes' to extending their lifespan beyond 100 and that the technologies of life extension, once they are perfected for use, will actually be available only to those who are wealthy.

The survey was conducted by Washington D.C.-based Pew Research Center, which describes itself as "a nonpartisan fact tank that informs the public about the issues, attitudes and trends shaping America and the world." Pew posed questions to a nationally representative sample of 2,012 adults between March 21, 2013 and April 8, 2013.

Currently, one in seven Americans (roughly) is aged 65 or older, and the Census Bureau predicts that by 2050 more than 400,000 Americans will be at least 100 years old. Pew reports that 18 percent of adults say they worry "a lot" about outliving their financial resources in retirement, while 23 percent say they worry "a little."

Such concerns may become a reality if current life extension research pans out as planned.

Programs

Research aimed at extending average life expectancies is under way at many universities and commercial laboratories as is advanced research to improve quality of life for those who are aging. Tucked within the Wake Forest School of Medicine in North Carolina, Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine aims to “cure,” rather than merely treat disease. If such results are achieved, the benefit will likely be that people with disease may live longer lives with improved quality of life to boot.

The Institute focuses on developing cell therapies as well as growing tissues and organs for more than 30 different areas of the body. Indicative of developments in the life extension field, the Institute also explores cell therapies, which apply living cells to an organ or tissue to promote healing and regeneration from within and may eventually be used in the treatment of liver disease, diabetes, neural disorders, renal failure, and other chronic conditions. Gene therapies, which correct defective DNA responsible for disease development, are another area of study at the Institute, as is tissue engineering, the science of growing replacement organs and tissue to replace that which is damaged or diseased. Scientists at Wake Forest are also attempting to engineer solid organs.

Although science continues to advance — and in the case of organ regeneration, perhaps radically so — the public's feelings about it appear to be mixed. According to the survey conducted by Pew's Religion & Public Life Project, which focuses on issues that lie in that blurry zone where religion and public affairs converge, nearly 70 percent of adults believe that by the year 2050, there will be a cure for most forms of cancer. Although such optimism at the prospect of scientific advancement is heartening, at the same time, the public remains wary with just under a quarter saying that they have "a lot" of confidence that any new medicines or treatments were carefully tested before becoming available. Worse, about 41 percent believe medical treatments these days "often create as many problems as they solve." With or without public confidence, science has undoubtedly contributed to this fact of longer lifespans today as compared to the past.

Question: if many Americans are suspect of medical treatments, how many take measures to successfully maintain their health or even extend their lives on their own? Other surveys contain the answers to these questions.

Vitamins And Exercise

In a study published in April of this year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Health Statistics found that use of dietary supplements is widespread and increasing among U.S. adults. The percentage of the U.S. population who used at least one dietary supplement increased from 42 percent during the time period spanning 1988 to 1994 to 53 percent in 2003 to 2006. In particular, women were more likely than men to use one or more dietary supplements. Multivitamins/multiminerals are the most commonly used dietary supplements, with approximately 40 percent of men and women reporting use during 2003 to 2006. For women over 60, only 28 percent reported using supplemental calcium during 1988 to 1994, yet that spiked to 61 percent during 2003 to 2006.

In terms of exercise, just 14.3 percent of U.S. adults met the recommended guidelines for both aerobic and muscle strengthening activity in 1998, whereas the number of Americans meeting the guidelines rose to 21 percent in 2011. In 1998, a little more than half or 56.6 percent met neither guideline, while in 2011 that percentage declined to 47.6.

Ultimately, though, life is very much about how a person feels looking toward the future. The Pew survey finds that, generally, Americans are optimistic. An overwhelming majority — about 81 percent — report that they are satisfied with the way things are going in their lives. While slightly more than a quarter say they expect their lives to be about the same, more than half expect that, 10 years from now, their lives will be even better.

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