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Astounding new estimates suggest that by the year 2050 there will be over 400,000 Americans who are at least 100 years old or older. And some believe that treatments are just on the horizon that will be able to slow or perhaps even reverse the aging process. Some even suggest that because of radical life extension life spans could see upwards of 120 years in the future.

And while this seems promising many in this country are fearful of such longevity. According to a Pew Research Center study, of those surveyed regarding whether or not they’d want to slow their aging process, 56% said no they would not, while 68% do think other people would opt to do so. But what would such long life spans mean for the country? How would it impact our resources? Would it be too much of a strain on the world if people did live well into their hundreds?

The survey involved just over 2000 adults and asked about health care, aging, radical life extension as well as bioethical issues. What they did discover was that many do not fear to have older people in society. 41% of respondents said this would be a good thing for the country as a whole. Only 10% saw it as a bad thing to have a larger population of senior citizens.

When questioned about how long they would like to live, nearly 70% answered between 80 and 100. Currently, the average life expectancy in this country is 78 years. Many were also incredibly hopeful regarding medical advances over the next thirty years. For example, 70% believe that there will be a cure for cancer. 71% believe there will be significant improvements in artificial limbs, and 63% said that they think such medical advances are good for society rather than detrimental. There are some though (nearly 25%) who are nervous about how well medical treatments are being tested before being released and practiced on the public. While another 41% say that medical advancements do create problems even though they may solve some.

 

Radical Life Extension

Given where we are now regarding the idea of radical life extension, many don’t seem to know all that much about it. When asked about the possibility of people living until 120 years old, over fifty percent of respondents thought this a bad idea. Still, 41% did feel that this might be a good thing for society. However, that said, most are skeptical that such a thing will happen any time soon. 73% said that they doubted this would occur by the year 2050.

Most of the people surveyed felt that such long lives would put a strain on natural resources. And six in ten of the individuals asked said that such treatments to radially extend people’s lives would be unnatural.

Views regarding radical life extension did vary somewhat along racial and ethnic lines. Blacks and Hispanics tended to see it as more of a positive thing for the country. Also, younger adults saw it as a good thing more so than those over fifty years old did.

 

Attitudes Regarding Medical Advances

Currently, there are approximately 41 million Americans over the age of 65, comprising 13% of the total population of the country. Those that are over 65 are growing at a faster pace than any other generation in the US. And 41% of those surveyed did say that having so many older adults in society was a good thing.

 

Right now life expectancy stands at 78.7 years. Women do tend to live longer (81 years). Given these numbers, most Americans do say they’d like to live longer than the average—somewhere between 80 and 100 years old. Only 14% said they’d like to live less than 78.7 years. And only 9% say they’d like to live beyond the age of 100. The median ideal life span of those who participated was ninety years. Hispanics and blacks tended to be more inclined to want to live in their mid-nineties.

In terms of views on medical treatments, the answers were largely positive. 63% were in favor of advancements that helped prolong life. Still, 32% said that such medical advancements were unnatural. Another 41% said that such advancements were often as problematic as they were helpful. Overall it could be said that those who saw medical advancements as positive were okay with radical life extension and those who were skeptical of advanced medical treatments were not necessarily in favor of the idea of radical life extension.

 

Better Understanding People’s Views on Radical Life Extension

The survey had several surprising results. One would think that religious attitudes and views about God would impact people’s perception of radical life extension; however, this proved not to be the case. Such views impacted their attitude only weakly. Also, factors such as education, political stance, and gender did not influence the respondents’ perceptions of radical life extension one way or another.

One thing that did have an impact in this study was people’s views concerning the death penalty. Those who oppose it say that longer life spans would be a positive thing for society. While those in favor of the death penalty tended to be against radical life extension advancements.

Race and ethnicity also factored into views on radical life extension, as blacks and Hispanics were more likely to favor radical life extension advancements both for themselves and society as a whole. Whites, however, weren’t quite as in favor of it. As to the reason for this divergence, there could be a multitude of factors. For instance, blacks and Hispanics had much higher expectations than scientific breakthroughs by 2050 would provide cures for cancer among other advances. They also, more so than whites, saw an increasingly older population as a good thing for our society.

 

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