We’ll still be working when we’re 80, says age researcher

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Out: Judith Braun


Economists have called for the retirement age to be linked to life expectancy. If medical advances make people old, they could continue to work.

In the summer of 2022, economists faced strong opposition to their demand to raise the retirement age to 70. Even Federal Labor Minister Hubertus Heil (SPD) rejected this proposal for a retirement age. The highest retirement age in Germany is currently 67. This applies to all citizens born in 1964 or later.

At the time, economists recommended linking the retirement age with the average life expectancy. According to the motto: When you live longer, you can work longer. Aging research also looks at people’s life expectancy. Prof. Nir Barzilai of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine at Yeshiva University predicts that in the distant future—if medicine succeeds in enabling much longer, healthier endurance—people could work even longer.

Retirement: Even when we’re 80, we’ll still be working, age researcher says

According to an aging scientist, there are many professors who don’t retire even if they could. (Iconic image) © Simona Piolla/IMAGO

In a long-term study of so-called “centenarians”—people who were a hundred years old or older—Barzilai investigated the causes of their longevity. Factors such as exercise, adequate sleep and certain diets have been shown to be anti-aging. For example, intermittent fasting can promote cell regeneration, so a proper diet can have a rejuvenating effect. According to Barzilai, this increases the chances of surpassing the average life expectancy of 78 years. However, as his study showed, it is not lifestyle that is decisive for a very long life: it is rather genes, the researcher explains in an interview with Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ). For example, many of the study participants were heavy smokers, half of the participants were overweight, and less than half exercised regularly.

Statistically, the maximum age is currently 115 years. However, research is underway to further increase it. It is possible that people born today could live to be 150 years old. “However, it will take some time before we know for sure,” says the researcher. Moreover, the nimble and healthy centenarians are still the exception today. Aging basically makes people sick. Although medical advances have led to enormous increases in life expectancy, diseases such as cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, heart failure, and diabetes, among others, go hand in hand with aging. “These diseases are the price of aging,” says Barzilai.

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Aging research: People who live to be 100 or older are usually healthier

Interestingly, however, it turned out that the study participants not only lived longer than average, but were also healthier. “Ordinary people usually get sick between the ages of 60 and 80, Centuries decades later. The most important thing is that their so-called morbidity is reduced, towards the end of their life they are ill for a shorter period of time,” says the doctor. Not only do they cause lower costs for the healthcare system: Such a high life expectancy could also bring financial benefits, as older people continue to participate in economic life.

The age researcher also predicts that social security systems must and will change. Accordingly, the age at which people retire will be increased. In his view, at some point it will be normal for people to still work in their 80s or 90s. Assuming that medicine can make a much longer and healthier life possible. For example, in his study there was a 107-year-old hedge fund founder who did not want to stop working.

“There are many professors who do not retire even if they could. Why should he when you’re healthy and love your job?” says the researcher. Other ways could be found for people in physically demanding jobs to continue to contribute to the benefit of society. In Germany, however, every third employee is preparing for early “retirement”.

This article contains only general information on the relevant health topic and is therefore not intended for self-diagnosis, treatment or medication. In no case does it replace a doctor’s visit. Unfortunately, our editors are not authorized to answer individual questions regarding clinical images.

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