There was once a time when people who lived to 100 were such rarities that they were featured on national television. Not so any longer. Thanks to ongoing medical advances, the U.S. Census projects that by the year 2050, there will be more than 400,000 Americans who have reached 100 years or older. 400,000. To put that in perspective, that is bigger than the current population of the nation of Iceland by almost 70,000 people.
But the science of longevity is not stopping, and with developments in areas such as stem-cell research, there is the very real possibility that within the next few decades, we could have at our disposal (if we have the means) medical technology that will increase life expectancy even further, to 120 or beyond. But would you want to? Pew Research ran a telephone survey of some 2,000 adults, asking to speak with the youngest member of the household. Pew hit their respondents with questions related to the prospect of being able to live to 120 or beyond. The results were surprising. When asked if they would take medical treatments that would slow the aging process and let them live to 120, 56%—more than half—said they would not. Some 65% said that they thought other people would want to live that long, though.
At present, the average life expectancy in the U.S. is 78.7 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control. In the Pew survey, only 14% of people said they would want to live for 78 years or less. A whopping 69% said they would want to live between 79 and 100 years. Only 8% said they would want to live past 100, and 9% said they didn’t know. So, while most people would like to live longer than what they think is likely, there is a limit to how much more time they want. What gives?
The reasons for this ran the gamut from people not thinking life extension would be worth the cost, to people not thinking that the world needed more population, to some objecting to radical life extension on religious grounds. But the real answer might come from another set of data altogether.