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We're getting older and living longer!

Published on 5 Jan 2011 17:00 : 0 comments : 598 views

I am Estelle and I am the Genes Reunited product assistant. I read recently that the Department for Work and Pensions have announced some new statistics. They predict that one in 5 of us will live to see our 100th birthday. 

At the moment there are about 11,800 people in the UK who are 100 or older and less than 100 of those are older than 110. By 2066 the Department for Work and Pensions predicts that there will be about 507,000 people who are 100 or older, with about 7,700 of those being older than 110.

If we look back in time, this is vastly different to when our ancestors were around. In mid-Victorian Britain life expectancy was low and even lower in towns and cities. The population were expected to live to about the age of 40. Three in 20 children would die before their first birthday. Obviously life was very different back then and is the main reason why life expectancy was so low. There was inadequate sanitation, working conditions were often dangerous and the diet was, on the whole, very poor. Children frequently died from scarlet fever and measles. This is so different to life now when scarlet fever can be treated and we can vaccinate our children against measles. Adults were often killed by asthma and rheumatism.

In Victorian Britain there were also several outbreaks of typhoid and cholera, which was caused by drinking dirty water and eating dirty food. Queen Victoria's husband Prince Albert died from typhoid in 1861. Thousands of people died of these dreadful diseases and prompted the Sanitary Act, which was passed in 1866. As a result of this act local authorities had to take action to provide fresh water, sewage, waste disposal and street cleaning.

By 1911 life expectancy had increased. Women were expected to live to 54 and men were expected to live to 50. There were about 100 centenarians. If you look at employment figures about 1.3 million people worked as domestic servants. About 1.2 million were employed in agriculture and 971,000 were employed in coal mining.

Looking at figures from a 2008 labour force survey by the Office for National Statistics, you can see that the jobs have changed drastically over the last 100 years. In 2008 1.6 million people worked as sales assistants and retail cashiers; 1.4 million as ‘functional managers', e.g. in sales and marketing, personnel and information technology, and there were 1.3 million in teaching. There were no longer enough coal miners to even register on the survey.

Over the last thirty years the number of centenarians has actually quadrupled. This is quite simply down to better medical treatment, better housing, higher standards of living and better nutrition.

If we're going to be living past 100, it makes me wonder how this will affect the census which is typically released 100 years after it was taken. It was generally thought that most, if not all, of the people listed in it would have passed away by the time it was released. This year we will all be filling out the 2011 census. The Office of National Statistics says that it will keep the information confidential for 100 years. However, if our children are in this census and then they're still alive in 2111, will the data still be released?

As we're going to live longer, but what does this mean to us? Well, for a start, there will be greater strains on the NHS and the pensions department. On hearing about these new statistics, the Pensions Minister Steve Webb admitted there would be a need for a pension reforms. Also, we might want to keep working longer. Why should we give up work at 60 if we're going to live for another 40 years after that?

As for me? I'm just looking forward to growing old gracefully and receiving my birthday card from the King (or Queen) when I reach 100!