South Africa: We Can't Just Keep Getting Older


We're getting older, obviously. Every day we're warned about the approach of the end of the world, of civilisation as we know it. We may die from such a threat, but we're not going to die of old age anymore, and that's a problem. Three score years and ten just isn't the number.

It is already being claimed that the first human to live to the age of 200 has already been born. I doubt it, but we are going there. The Queen will need computer-generated notes to replace her hand-written personal centenarian letters of congratulations, soon enough, in her lifetime.

The causes of ageing are obvious: fertility rates are declining and life expectancy is increasing. The social and economic consequences of this are dire.

The world average of live births to a mother has declined from just under five to just over two, over just the past two generations. At the other end of the spectrum, the old and geriatric population is expected to exceed two billion within just the next generation.

The percentage of the population over 65 varies considerably across countries, climates, stages of development and access to life-extending healthcare. In SA, only some 7% of our...

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