Most Babies Born Today May Live Past 100

"More older persons living longer and living better -- there will also be an absolute increase in persons with disability and requiring care," said Dr. Eric B. Larson, executive director of the Group Health Research Institute in Seattle. "This will cause us to need to rethink health care for all ages, but especially for seniors -- most likely this would mean a focus more on rehabilitation and pre-habilitation, health and functional maintenance and less focus on individual sickness and acute care."

Some worry that changes that come may not be positive.

"Unfortunately, I think what we're seeing, especially with the obesity epidemic, is people are living longer, but they're not necessarily healthier, and that's where we really need to focus," said Gonzalez. "That's a huge economic burden, to take care of a lot of sick people.

"I'm a little troubled, actually, that society is aging, and a large proportion of the older population will be made up of a lot of skilled workers. My chief concern is that right now we have gutted a lot of our educational opportunities and that we may not have the skilled work force necessary to support an older population."

Gonzalez said part of the problem is reflected in ethnic disparities, where minorities -- who will make up an increasing percent of the population -- have more health problems and less education.

Others noted that while disparities are present, there is also an increasing, vital group of older people that is likely to continue growing, even if it will not be a majority of the country in a century.

"A large percent of the older population is still very active physically and cognitively. It's definitely true that there will be a lot more people over 100," said Bloom.

Older But Wiser?

Changing demographics may mean some unprecedented changes in the work force as well, particularly since many are likely to keep working longer.

"That will be one of the major challenges, to keep the elderly in the workforce, and at the same time to make work for the younger generations," said Christensen. "That's for sure going to be something that requires a lot of new thinking. That will be a new situation."

But an increasingly older population may have some benefits over the present demographics.

"One commodity that may emerge is an increase in wisdom," said Helfand.

"It appears that wisdom, or an ability to compromise, does come with age," he said. "Having more people with experience -- not just technical, but also emotional and psychological experience -- should be beneficial. (For example, it often takes older statesmen to make compromises that will benefit their country's longer term benefit, than younger less compromising statesmen.) Time -- age -- usually improves decision-making."

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