by Margaret A. Perkinson, Ph.D., Center on Aging Director – University of Hawai‘I 

Never in the history of humankind have so many people lived so long. Anthropologists estimate that on average, Neanderthals lived little more than 20 years; only a small percent reached 40. In 15th century Europe, the average life expectancy reached a scant 35 years. Around the turn of the 20th century, however, advances in public health (clean water, waste disposal, vaccinations) decreased infectious diseases, greatly reducing infant and child mortality and increasing life expectancy. Since WWII, global average life expectancy increased from 45 to 69.6 years. By 2040, the number of people expected to reach age 65 is projected to reach 79.7 million. The number of seniors expected to reach age 80 is projected to increase 233 percent by 2040.

As a species, we have made greater gains in average life expectancy in the past 100 years than in the previous 200,000 years! To put it another way, half of all humans who ever reached age 65 are still alive today!ever in the history of humankind have so many people lived so long. Anthropologists estimate that on average, Neanderthals lived little more than 20 years; only a small percent reached 40. In 15th century Europe, the average life expectancy reached a scant 35 years. Around the turn of the 20th century, however, advances in public health (clean water, waste disposal, vaccinations) decreased infectious diseases, greatly reducing infant and child mortality and increasing life expectancy. Since WWII, global average life expectancy increased from 45 to 69.6 years. By 2040, the number of people expected to reach age 65 is projected to reach 79.7 million. The number of seniors expected to reach age 80
is projected to increase 233 percent by 2040.

Recent global declines in birth rates contributed to populations’ increased percentages of old compared to young. In the near future, persons aged 65 and over will outnumber children under age 5 for the first time in history.

These population changes will have a great impact on both individual life experiences and social institutions. As the average size and composition of families change, with multiple generations and fewer members in each succeeding generation, fewer caregivers will be tending to more older adults, in addition to raising their own children!

Older populations confront long-term, sometimes incurable health challenges, such as cardiovascular disease, cancer and dementia. Chronic conditions demand reformulated forms of health-care — community-based long-term care, in-home care and support systems to enable continued independence and quality of life.

With its aloha spirit and extensive network of ‘ohana dedicated to elder well-being, Hawai‘i is the perfect place to assume a leadership role in developing service models to address the health and social challenges of aging in the modern world by providing optimal kupuna care.

CENTER ON AGING — University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa
2430 Campus Rd., Gartley Hall, 201B, Honolulu HI 96822

808-956-6124  |  map3@hawaii.edu
www.hawaii.edu/aging/

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