ATTENTION: CITY DESK/ ASSIGNMENT EDITORS
Contact: Tom Capezzuto
At UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School Societal Issues May Cloud UMDNJ Researcher’s Vision of ‘Extraordinary Longevity’
--Published Report in September Issue of Journal of the American Geriatrics Society--
9/22/05—Major societal issues, including poverty and hunger, are likely to result from scientific efforts to achieve longevity beyond 100 years, according to a health policy expert from the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ). The report is published in the September issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.
"The scientific advances in understanding and modifying the aging process are moving at such an extraordinary speed that the potential for people to live 110 to 120 or more years no longer is science fiction," said Dr. Donald B. Louria, chairman emeritus of the Department of Preventive Medicine and Community Health at the UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School and author of the published report.
In a series of articles entitled "Breakthroughs in Aging Research," Dr. Louria and other gerontology experts detail several technologies that illustrate the potential for creating "extraordinary longevity" that would dramatically extend the current life expectancy of 77 years to 100 and beyond. "A profound increase in world population, based on a 10-year prolongation of life expectancy, will not be determined by fertility and birth rates but by how much we can increase longevity," Dr. Louria said, "and this is a tectonic shift that could be catastrophic."
Dr. Louria predicted that over the next 25 years in the United States more than one person in five will be over 65 years of age and 16 to 20 million will be over age 80. He listed five areas of concern during the next quarter century. They are:
- The elderly will outlive their financial resources and that poverty and near-poverty rates will double between ages 65 and 85.
- Health care costs may increase dramatically and become unaffordable for the elderly. Currently, Dr. Louria noted that 85-year-olds use more than double the health care dollars compared to 65-year-olds, thereby raising the possibility that those over 65 may eventually use 75 percent or more of all health care money spent.
- The concern that extraordinary longevity may be accompanied by poor quality of life for a substantial percentage of the "very old."
- The possibility that three or four generations will be competing for the same jobs.
- The likelihood, given the fact that the U.S. is experiencing an obesity epidemic, that very large numbers of obese people will suffer from excessive disabilities and frailty after age 65 at excessive costs to the health care system.
"If we succeed in creating extraordinary longevity," Dr. Louria said, "what will happen if 40 or 50 percent of adult life is spent in retirement? We should be planning for what may be our demographic destiny."
To arrange an interview with Dr. Louria, call Tom Capezzuto, UMDNJ News Service, at (973) 972-7273.