The Growth of Centenarian Numbers

Grandma Moses, a well-known American painter, began painting at the age of 80. Yet, 25 of the 1500 or more paintings she produced were completed in the last year of her life after she passed her 100th birthday. Anna Mary Robertson Moses was born in 1860 at the beginning of the American Civil War and died in 1961 a year after the election of John Fitzgerald Kennedy. Her paintings increased in value over the period she painted them and even after her death. She appeared on the cover of major magazines in her time and was honored by several U.S. Presidents.

Grandma Moses was one of the still relatively rare centenarians of the last century. Yet now, a child born in the 21at century has a relatively good chance of reaching the age of 100. Longevity has expanded measurably over the last century. At the beginning of the 20th century many died before their 40th birthday, but that gradually increased with the development of penicillin and many other atibiotics, antiviral and antiparasitic agents. Medicine has also advanced in many ways over the last century. We can now anticipate the eradication of malaria, hepatitis B and many other virus-induced diseases through vaccines in some cases or through new drugs in others. Major chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and even cancers are increasingly treatable and longevity is less and less compromised. Many will be treated far in advance of symptoms as their genetic predisposition may allow a special and more effective treatment, sometimes even years ahead of the development of disease.

In the future, we may live yet longer if people eat more sensibly, avoid toxic elements in their diet, exercise, and avoid tobacco, excess alcohol or compromizing abuse of drugs. Whereas living past 100 for Grandma Moses and others was rare, and perhaps an accident of good genetic profiles, in the future we will have to earn that longevity by taking proper care of oursleves. We will have to want to live longer to some extent as well.

Who knows how long we can live? Many may not choose to extend life just as they do now by not taking proper care. We cannot be made accept the gift of an extended life. Yet, as we move on, bionic modification will be possible with implantable micro or even nano-robotic smart machines that may perform diagnostic or even life-saving micro-surgical procedures. We can replace all the major organs now and may be able to do far more than that in the future with advances we cannot presently do more than dream about. Indeed, these technologies as they develop may be sufficiently advanced such that if were introduced now would be largely perceived as indistinguishable from magic.

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2 responses to “The Growth of Centenarian Numbers

  1. It would be just like man to make himself immortal before he made himself wise.

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