The number of "Methusalems" keeps growing

Despite ongoing discussions about the future development of life expectancy, demographers also expect cases of extreme longevity, i.e. the number of people getting older than 110, to get more common. Imagine these future supercentenarians, born in 1950 and earlier, telling their astonished great-grandchildren in 2050 how life was like without television, mobile phones, computers and internet, how they watched the first flight to the moon and how the ownership of a car and plane travel were luxuries in their childhood and later became affordable for average-income households.

Most of these centenarians will - like today - live in Europe and Asia, with Japan and Switzerland among the countries with the highest life expectancy at birth worldwide. However, research about the average quality of life regarding physical and mental health or the development of mortality at those very high ages is still in its initial stage.

This is due to the fact that in the past the number of people aged 90 and older was relatively low and that today's official statistics are - even in industrialized countries - often not very reliable regarding the registration of very old persons. Regular censuses - though in many countries much disliked by data protection commissioners - could help not only to fill this information gap but also to improve the quality of forecasts regarding future demands of an ageing society.

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