A Contrary View - the looming crisis of our longer lifespans

Live long and flounder: An aging expert on the looming crisis of our longer lifespans

A new book, “The Measure of Our Age,” explores the growing problem of our graying nation

First, the good news. As author, MacArthur Fellowship recipient and founding head of DOJ’s Elder Justice Initiative M. T. Connolly writes in her new book, “For millions of people, there has never been a better time to be old.”

Over the past century, we have expanded our average lifespans by an incredible thirty years, and we’ve done it with astonishing advancements in medications and other interventions to improve our health and mobility.

Now, here comes the really bad part. Our collective aging is wildly outpacing our social, financial, medical and caretaking abilities. In “The Measure of Our Age: Navigating Care, Safety, Money, and Meaning Later in Life,” Connolly lays out some stark statistics. In a little over a decade, we will have more people in this country over the age of 65 than under the age of 18. People eighty-five and older are “the fastest growing segment of the US population.” Half of them require financial assistance, and three quarters of them have some form of disability.


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The book:

An expert on elder justice maps the challenges of aging, how things go wrong, and presents powerful tools we can use to forge better long lives for ourselves, our families, and our communities. As tens of millions of Americans are living longer lives, longevity is creating challenges that cut across race, class, and gender. Caregivers help older relatives for “free,” but with high costs to themselves in time, money, jobs, and health. Scammers target countless seniors. The institutions built to protect older people–like nursing homes and guardianship–too often harm them instead. And epidemics of isolation and loneliness make older people vulnerable to all sorts of harm. In The Measure of Our Age, elder justice expert and MacArthur “genius” grant recipient, M.T. Connolly investigates the systems we count on to protect us as we age. Weaving first-person accounts, her own experience, and shocking investigative reporting, she exposes a reality that has long been hidden and sometimes actively covered up. But her investigation also reveals reasons for hope within everyone’s grasp. Connolly’s strategies and action plans for navigating the many challenges of aging will appeal to a wide range of readers–adult children caring for aging parents; policymakers trying to do the right thing; and, should we be so lucky as to live to old age, all of us. This book transforms how we think about aging.

About the Author

M. T. Connolly is widely recognized as a leading national expert on elder justice, for which she was honored with a MacArthur “Genius” award. She was the founding head of the Department of Justice’s Elder Justice Initiative; the architect of the Elder Justice Act, the first comprehensive federal law to address the issue; and the lead author of the Elder Justice Roadmap that guides federal, state, and local priorities. She lives in Washington, DC.



Thank you, this looks like a great read!

Medicare and social security are already at a breaking point.

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The big issue is age-related disability. If people were healthy and (perhaps) taking rapamycin and other longevity drugs, much of the age-related disability could be avoided…

you have the fact that about three out of four people 85 and older have some kind of functional disability, and many are going to need care. Then the question is, where does all that care come from? One thing that comes as a big surprise to many people is that Medicare does not cover long term care. The CLASS Act, which was the part of the Affordable Care Act that covered Long Term Care, was repealed. Most private health insurance plans don’t cover long term care.


I think the strategy for long term care is to become disinvested/impoverished and qualify for MEDICAID. Kinda sad.

Assuming Medicaid/Medicare stays solvent

Yes, Medicare only covers 100 days and then a person is forced into either Medicaid or private pay. Most people can’t afford private pay for very long. I think if more people knew this and planned ahead they’d be much better off. Actually our abysmal healthcare situation related to insurance in the US is what prompted me to basically become obsessed (at age 40) with taking care of myself to the very best of my ability. I’m both thankful and appalled for the lessons I’ve learned after seeing firsthand what ordinary unsuspecting people go through each day in the long term care system. Sorry for the ranting.


increased our lifespan over 30years in.l… and u say incredible!! Incredibly poor and slow is what it is. That is very poor and advances in health and biologicals etc. has been very very slow and poor compared to other areas. Eg by how much do u think the density of transistors has increased in microprocessors etc. Like more than 2000 percent or more in just 40 years. and u say ’ incredible 30 years ’ which may be around 50% at most and took a century to do it for life. Astonishingly poor and we are still full of shit literally.- how ungodly disgraceful can one get. Which certainly makes life not worth living when u have to put up with that shit - literally . Get real. That and other ungodly horrible features of life should have been corrected long long ago. Another measure of a really really poor advancement in life science, medical advances etc. just think life expectancy for humans is still less than some whale and tortoise species, some birds can see better than us, all kinds of areas where animals in nature are still superior to us.

which is why i certainly don’t pay for anything but only take the free part which is supposed to include nursing home though i really doubt that it will really do that as there will be all kinds of if… and only if… and all kinds of things that it will not do.i am sure.

Aspirin’s use fighting cancer has the potential to increase pension liabilities by as much as $100 billion by extending lifespans, a risk modeler says in a report.

The pension costs for men in the U.K. could rise by 0.7% within 20 years if more people begin taking aspirin daily, according to a statement by Risk Management Solutions Inc. this week. An increase of that magnitude across the more than $13 trillion in pension liabilities in North America and Europe would be about the same as everyone giving up smoking within a generation, the modeling firm says.

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Some retirement plans, like mine, have an option such as a 30-year payout or a lifetime payout at a lesser monthly amount. I remember pondering and I am glad I chose the lifetime payout.

At least in the United States, we’ve already seen the shift from guaranteed retirement plans / pensions to 401k and IRAs. Very few professions offer pensions anymore and if lifespans really do increase (right now in the United States they’re decreasing) I would expect the pension to just disappear completely. Social Security age would likely increase too.

That said there will be a LOT of unknowns over the coming decades. The rapid development of automation and AI could drastically shift the demand for workers and dramatically shift how things in society get paid for.

Things are going to get pretty interesting, to say the least.


It’s crazy to realize that this is literally the plan for most people. You spend-down your money until Medicaid starts paying. There are even financial advisors / lawyers for high net worth individuals who help them figure out how to legally gift their money to their children 5 years ahead of any anticipated need for medicaid because medicaid looks at your accounts 5 years into the past when applying.

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Right you are, @jakexb. Things could get ugly when cops, teachers, and firefighters all lose their pensions. I myself have one of those pensions, which is financially indispensable and morally indefensible.

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I am hoping that these fears are overblown because life expectancy is dropping, at least in the USA. Obese people lose 6-14 years of life expectancy. In the USA obesity is around 42% and still climbing.

Yes, healthy people will live longer, but there aren’t that many of them.