Of today’s population, more than 10 million are predicted to reach 100 years old. Should we be happy at the prospect of getting a royal telegram, or worried about who’ll look after us and how we’ll cope financially?
Of the people you encounter today, how many do you think will live to 100? Obviously, it depends on how old some of them are right now. But according to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), more than you’d think are likely to clock up a three-figure final score before shuffling off this mortal coil.
Apparently 10 million of the people wandering around the UK at this very moment will make it to 100, with many under-16s even likely to celebrate 110 birthdays or more.
As a science fiction fan, I find this fascinating: will the oldies of the future have robotic Zimmer frames, computerised cures for forgetfulness and pills to preserve perfect eye sight?
Whether your knee-jerk reaction to the thought of living to 100 is excitement or horror, one thing’s for sure: our ageing population will have a profound impact on the welfare state, and the extension of the average lifespan has huge implications for both individuals and families.
‘45 years of retirement’
Alliance Trust Savings, an investment company that provides pensions and stocks, says the DWP’s research should spur people to consider how they’ll fund their long future lives.
Assuming most will still want to stop working at 65, Alliance Trust points out that those of us who live as long as 110 years will need nest eggs big enough to see us through 45 years of retirement! While I can’t see 65 remaining the ‘default setting’ for retirement – especially given the government’s intention to raise the state retirement age to 66 by 2020 – this is certainly food for thought.
As far as the welfare state is concerned, taxpayers are already groaning under the weight of supporting a population that is becoming steadily more imbalanced as older people live longer, and younger people have fewer children.
Personally, I’m a big believer in the NHS and the importance of decent old age pensions for all – but the question of how we’ll continue to fund them is a difficult one to tackle.
The self-preservation society
In the absence of a clear solution, it seems we’ll have to get better at thinking ahead for ourselves and our families.
I know some people are acutely aware of the need to save for retirement and have pensions and Isas coming out of their ears. But the reality is that millions of Britons have no savings at all, and plenty of employers still don’t offer pension schemes.
It’s hoped that the introduction of NEST in 2012 will encourage more people to invest for their retirement. Alongside this, I think we’re all going to need to confront not only our own mortality, but our likely longevity: the fact that we’ll need to plan more carefully, and put more money by if we want to make sure we can live comfortably in later life.
It’s this uncomfortable truth that, for me, rather takes the fun out of the thought that I might become a ‘centenarian’. Imagining myself on some sort of sci-fi hovercraft mobility scooter is fine – until I start contemplating who will have to pay for it.