“It’s nonsense to forecast life expectancy.”
These were the blunt words echoed to several hundred in the audience at last month’s LIMRA Life Insurance Conference in Las Vegas. They were spoken by someone who is so well respected in the field of aging and death that I personally viewed him as one of the finest keynotes ever to speak at a LIMRA event.
Dr. Jay Olshanksy, Ph.D., a professor in the School of Public Health at the University of Illinois at Chicago and research associate at The Center on Aging at the University of Chicago, has contributed to numerous articles and primetime news interviews on the subject of aging, mortality and longevity. Essentially, he works to prove how mortal the human species is (cue the depressing sigh), contrary to recent research proving an increase in the life expectancy of Americans.
Olshansky proclaimed that age-adjusted death rates for the first nine months of 2015 increased significantly compared with the same period in 2014, which clearly came as a shock to most in the crowd.
“This is a glimpse into the future,” he said. “We’re not going to see any type of increase in longevity any time soon. We’ve pushed ourselves to the age limit.”
Is he for real? Am I, you and your clients really not going to live to 120 as the CDC and National Institutes of Health had us believing? According to Olshansky, the longevity curve has hit its peak.
“The point is, we have to live with the bodies we have and these bodies weren’t meant to last,” he continued, adding that degenerative diseases (such as Alzheimer’s) are taking over communicable diseases — a sign, Olshansky stated, that our bodies were not meant to live forever.
If we continue to live longer, without altering the aging process, the fear that many of us have is that we will only extend the period of frailty and disability we experience. In essence, longer life is not what we want … unless we have health and happiness to accompany it.
This is paramount to planning for the future for your clients. The advantage of owning insurance products such as long-term care and disability insurance, for example, will help individuals have that healthy, happy end of life experience, no matter if life expectancy is increasing or not. Your clients must be prepared to live forever, even though, as Olshansky reminded us, “We are not immortal. Death is inevitable.”