Steve Monroe recently offered an interesting take on the impact life expectancy will have on Senior Living in a Senior Care Investor article titled, “What happens when 100 is the new 65?”

By Steve Moran

A week or two ago, the website Nature published an article that says while we have been able to increase average life expectancy dramatically over the last twenty or so years, there seems to be an absolute limit of around 115 years. At the time I curated the article at Senior Living Leadership Hub and included a little commentary.  

I didn’t think too much more about it until I saw Steve Monroe’s take on the story at Senior Care Investor in an article titled What happens when 100 is the new 65? In his commentary, he make three key points:

  • He does not believe the 115 maximum age will hold — the current record is 122 years — primarily because of gene therapy.

  • This will likely be an option only for the wealthy.

  • He then wonders what will happen to the Social Security and Medicare systems when individuals will be able to collect benefits from these two systems for 75 years instead of the current average of 15. Good question.

Steve Monroe’s Questions

I have some thoughts on this whole idea.  

First, here is where I agree with Steve Monroe: I do think we will see gene therapy and other modalities cure disease and further increase the average lifespan. I also think there is a problem with unequal access for the wealthy. If we are honest, even today, for a variety of reasons, the wealthy generally have better and more ready access to healthcare (perhaps a good topic for a later article).   

Here are the things I am less sure about:

  1. I am not so sure we will make a big dent in cracking that 115 barrier.

  1. If 100 becomes the new 65, I assume over time the eligibility age for Social Security . . . and maybe Medicare . . . will increase dramatically.  

  2. If 100 becomes the new 65 — and folks work until 100 — it should actually help at least the Social Security system. Potentially, it would mean that people would contribute to the Social Security fund for an extra 35 years and would then still only collect for 15 years.

  3. The big “I don’t know” is this:  What if we can extend life, but the quality of life goes down. We know for sure that as we age, there are declines in cognitive abilities and perhaps those changes cannot be reversed with gene or other therapies. For instance, Alzheimer’s is almost exclusively a first world problem because in 2nd and 3rd world regions people often don’t live to an old enough age to have Alzheimer’s.  

  4. Steve thinks that even if people can work past 65 or 70, they won’t if they don’t have to. I am not quite so sure about this. I tend to think having a meaningful life is a massive driver and, as a result, many people will want to continue to work to 80 or 90 or even 100.   

    Maybe I am unusual in how I think about this, but I am not sure that 50 years of retirement sounds all that appealing. Yet, even if other’s do find it appealing, they will largely have the financial resources to pay for longer retirements.

Senior Living Implications

It is really hard to do a crystal ball look at what it might mean for senior living. Some thoughts:

  1. From a sector perspective living longer might suggest more need and longer lengths of stay.

  2. It might also mean the time of frailty (not sure that is quite the right term) could decrease, which would decrease demand.

  3. It could, as Steve suggests, not only have a big impact on Social Security and Medicare, but also mean more seniors will end up exhausting their resources. This would be something that would have a significant impact on senior living.

A big thanks to Steve Monroe for inspiring this article. Your thoughts on this?