The dramatic increase in average life expectancy during the twentieth century ranks as one of societys greatest achievements. While most babies born in 1900 did not live past age 50, life expectancy at birth now exceeds eighty-three years in Japan and is at least eighty-one years in several other countries (United Nations, 2011). Life expectancy is increasing so fast that half the babies born in 2007 will live to be at least 103, while half the Japanese babies born in the same year will reach the age of 107 (Boseley, 2009). It is certain that people are glad to live a longer life since longevity is the pursuit of most humans. However, longevity has also caused a lot of problems to society, such as financial burden, lack of resources and so on. This essay is to discuss both the advantages and disadvantages of the fact that people are living a longer life so that a clear picture of the situation is shown.
The advantages of longevity can be seen from both individuals and the society.
As for individuals, longevity has always been considered as a kind of treasure and fortune. And wisdom is usually linked with the elder. Death has always been regarded as something frightening and most people want to live a long life. Living longer means one can stay with his or her family longer and enjoy a happy later life. People spend most of their life working and taking care of their family. So it is simple common sense that people deserve a healthy and peaceful old age after the amount of paid work. Some people die without enjoying a pleasant twilight years, which is a great pity. On the other hand, that people live longer provides an opportunity for their children to return the care they have received from parents. As a saying goes, the tree may crave calm, but the wind will not drop and the off springs want to support but for the non-existent families. It is a pain and lifelong regret for many people. With parents living longer, children can have more time to stay with and show filial respect to them. So longevity helps to promote the harmonious relationship among family members.
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As for society, longevity allows people to contribute more to the world with their talent and wisdom. So many prominent scientists and scholars and other elites died with regret that they could not accomplish their plan. For example, Zhu Shenghao, a talented Chinese translator of Shakespeare’s works, passed away at the age of 32 due to illness. If he could live longer, there might be more Chinese versions of Shakespeare and more people could appreciate the Chinese translation art. Another illustration is the early death of English poets such as Byron who died at 36, Shelley at 29 and Keats at 25. All of them are supremely gifted and great treasure to the academia but die so young. When their poems are read by people nowadays in modern time, their rich talent can still raise great admiration. What a pity it is for the world to witness the loss of so many extraordinary talents. Since people are enjoying a longer life now, scientists can discover and invent more, scholars can write more and artists can compose more. Therefore, people living longer can make more contributions to the world.
Moreover, business markets can also benefit from the reality that people live longer. Traditionally, it is believed that a person has three major periods of life: childhood, adulthood and old age. However, old age is now evolving into two segments, a third age (young old) and a fourth age (oldest old). Recognition of the older population as a major market for business is beginning, as evidenced by an increasing number of articles about the “silver market.” Because a great deal of wealth is held by the older population and the number of elders is increasing relative to other age groups, it makes sense for business to design products appealing to the older market, and to direct advertising to them. Consumption by the older population can stimulate the economy. The economic power of older adults also can act as a force to change the ageist stereotypes often perpetuated by advertising (Uhlenberg, 2013). In addition, since old people need to be taken care of, more nursing homes need to be built. This offers more jobs so that the unemployment can be reduced and social stability can be maintained.
Thus, it is beneficial to both individuals and the society with people living longer from the perspective presented above.
The Disadvantages of Longevity
The most obvious disadvantage of longevity people are facing now is the aging problem. The U.N. Population Division projects that people older than age 60 will increase from just less than 800 million in 2011 (11 percent of world population) to more than 2 billion in 2050 (22 percent). That is to say, by 2050, almost a quarter of the world population will be the aged. When walking in the street, one old person out of four will be seen. In a world with low fertility, low mortality, and restricted immigration, countries must deal with the reality of having 20 percent or 30 percent of their populations older than age 65 (Uhlenberg, 2013). The aging population causes a series of problems to the society.
First of all, old people have to be taken care of, which leave great burden to their family as well as the society. According to an article published in the journal Corporate Adviser, MGM Advantage calculates the current level of annual household expenditure where the main occupant is aged 75 and over at more than £6,000. So if someone lived until they were 100, between their 75th and 100th birthday not including inflation, they would need to find around £400,000 to live. This, combined with falling annuity rates, will lead to more pensioners falling below the poverty line. (Corporate Adviser 2011) Though that people live longer is good news, the fact that should not be neglected is that this has a huge financial burden on people. The great pressure to support old parents may lead to the cracks of relationship between children and parents. There are reports about old people who cannot afford to live in nursing homes and have no child to rely on. So it is the responsibility of the government to help the old. In developed countries, where acute care and institutional long-term-care services are widely available, the use of medical care services by adults rises with age, and per capita expenditures on healthcare are relatively high among older age groups. Accordingly, the rising proportion of older people places upward pressure on overall healthcare spending in the developed world (Kinsella, Beard and Suzman, 2013).
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Secondly, longevity does not necessary mean health. The rate of getting illness increases with the growth of old age. In spite of the advances in medical technology, there are still many diseases that cannot be treated efficiently. For example, the prevalence of dementia increases dramatically with age, and the projected costs of caring for the growing numbers of people with dementia are daunting. The World Alzheimer Report 2012 (Alzheimer’s Disease International, 2012) estimates that the total worldwide cost of dementia exceeded US$600 billion in 2010, including informal care provided by family and others, social care provided by community care professionals, and direct costs of medical care. An Australian study has estimated that around 10 percent of the expected increase in healthcare costs anticipated over the next twenty years will be due to this condition alone (Vos, et al., 2007).
In addition, longer life expectancy and lower fertility rate may lead to lack of young working forces. The world with less young people will become less vigorous. And the increasing population is challenging the tolerance of the planet people are living on for most of the resources people are consuming are non-renewable. So it is urgent for human beings to do the best to protect the environment and save energy. Otherwise, longevity will become meaningless if one cannot live with contentment
Therefore, longer life expectancy of human beings creates burden to society and environment. However, the problems can be dealt with if people around the world work together.
Both the advantages and disadvantages of longevity have been discussed in detail above in this essay. Overall, the advantages of longer life span outweigh its disadvantages. It is obvious that though longer life expectancy puts burden on the society and environment, the problems caused can be tackled with the joint efforts made by people and it is urgent for human beings to do the best to save the environment and find out solution to the difficulties caused by the larger and larger population on the planet. On the other hand, the benefits both people and the world can get from the phenomenon of people living longer are irreplaceable and undeniable. It is the truth that longevity is a symbol of civilization and better life.
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