Is 40 the new 30

Demographer Sergei Scherbov: "40 is actually the new 30"

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According to the United Nations, women live to be 75 years old today on the global average. Men live a little shorter with an average of 70.2 years. At 84 years (women) and 79.4 years (men), Austria is in the Western European mean. Life expectancy has increased by more than 20 years since 1950. Sergei Scherbov is a demographer and deputy head of the World Population Program at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA). He thinks it is time to rethink our understanding of aging.

DEFAULT: How do you determine who is old?

Scherbov: For a long time people aged 60 or 65 were considered old. Around 200 years ago, only around 25 percent of people lived that long. Today, over 90 percent of people are older than 60 years. The saying "40 is the new 30" is also true: in 2010, 40-year-olds had the same life expectancy as 30-year-olds in the 1960s. So we need to rethink this view of aging.

DEFAULT: What do you suggest?

Scherbov: We should not only look at the chronological age, i.e. the age as a pure indication of time, but also the characteristics of the person at a certain point in time. We are always healthier and fitter - physically and mentally. One of my favorite examples is the table of the oldest Mount Everest conquerors: in 1953 it was a 39-year-old. In 2013, an 80-year-old Japanese made it. We therefore propose to set this threshold again: Old is someone who has a life expectancy of around 15 years.

DEFAULT: What would that change?

Scherbov: Looking at the population in this way, the curve of an aging society flattens out. People's behavior changes with the expectations that are placed on them. Many think that if they raise the retirement age, politics will make a mistake. But it is a fact that people get old as they age. When people are no longer seen as old and subjectively feel younger, they will also be willing to work longer. Today we are just biologically younger than our parents when they were the same age. (Katharina Kropshofer, June 28, 2019)