Frequently asked questions
‘Life expectancy’ can mean how many years you have left to live, or at what age you will die, or how long people (typically babies) born in the same year are expected to live. Confusing isn’t it.
If we use ‘life expectancy’ we will explain what it means in each case.
‘Longevity’ simply means ‘long life’. Recently it has come to mean ‘remaining life’ and we support this. So ‘my longevity’ increasingly means ‘my remaining life’.
Most things we do have a time frame in which we expect to complete them. Often we make important decisions with these time frames in mind. If something was to take half or twice as long as we expect, we might decide to approach it differently.
As we age, we tend to value our time more. So when it comes to questions like “what do I want to do with the rest of my life”, it’s natural to wonder how long you might have left.
Until recently, the best you could do was to look at the average remaining life expectancy for people your age. However, relying on published averages can be very misleading for two main reasons. Firstly, the published averages don’t take account of the dramatic increases in remaining life expectancies. Secondly, using an average conceals the wide range of life expectancies.
For example, women aged 65 have a remaining average life expectancy of 23 years and so could on average expect to live to 88 years (according to the Life Tables). However, an individual woman could live between one day and 45 years! We aim to help you understand better what might be your own remaining life expectancy (your longevity) and what could cause it to vary. This helps you with your longer term plans.
Even identical twins live to different ages. There are many factors which can account for this. Our research has concentrated on understanding the importance of these factors to individuals. We can do this much better than was possible even ten years ago. By closely monitoring the scientific literature we can pass on to you the implications of high quality research as it becomes available.
To make new information easier to understand, we group the main causes of changes in longevity under the five main areas of Surroundings, Health, Attitude, Parents and Eating. The first letters of these words make up the word SHAPE. By understanding these areas, our aim is to help you ‘shape’ your own longevity if you choose.
Most people would like some idea of their likely standard of living for their longevity – the rest of their life. They typically seek the guidance of a personal financial planner. One of the basic things a financial planner needs is a sense of how long you could be planning for.
The SHAPE Analyser was designed to help you and your financial planner answer this question. Our Longevity Plan now provides a more comprehensive basis for your discussions with any of your professional advisers. It explains the possible stages of your longevity and what you can do about them. It suggests the important immediate steps you can take, and the longer term steps you should consider while you still remain in good shape.
This means your professional advisers for health, financial and estate planning services are all well briefed about what you are expecting. By updating your Plan regularly you can ensure your advisers are also on track and helping you with your journey in a properly informed way.
In the 1880’s in Australia, female babies lived on average about four years longer than male babies. Over a century the gap widened to almost seven years and over the last forty years it has come down to about three years.
However, looking at men and women aged 65, the difference in remaining life expectancy in the 1880’s was only just over one year. It increased to a peak of four years in the 1980’s and is now decreasing. As we get older, the difference between genders diminishes to become insignificant by age 90.
Many reasons have been offered for this. Childbirth-related deaths have been reduce for women and their babies. Men are more at risk as young adults due to their more dangerous behaviour. More men died from smoking in the mid 1900’s.
If you study a large groups of people you can make reliable comments about ‘averages’. The Government Actuary produces tables giving average life expectancies. Unfortunately these tables take no account of expected improvements in mortality. So they underestimate the average life expectancies and are only averages.
There is a rapidly growing body of reliable information about ‘what causes people to live longer’. This comes from studies of large groups of people over long periods of time. They reveal much clearer relationships between cause and effect. For example, a USA study revealed that ‘older individuals with more positive self-perceptions of ageing, measured up to 23 years earlier, lived an average of 7.5 years longer than those with less positive self-perceptions’.
Life insurance companies base their commercial success on understanding what affects the quality and length of life of their customers. They have considerable information which they guard carefully and typically do not make available.
The SHAPE Analyser is designed to take account of all these reliable sources to help you develop a better idea of your own longevity – and how different you might be from people of the same age.
From knowing the possible impact of the five SHAPE areas, and becoming a Subscriber to develop your Longevity Plan, you are much better positioned to make the decisions that could influence the rest of your life.
Yes we are. In Australia we are likely to see the numbers of people over 100 grow from single thousands to tens of thousands over the next thirty years or so. In some ways, this will be the last frontier the baby boomers conquer!
Centenarians are increasingly being studied in many countries. Some of the findings are fascinating. For example, from a Boston USA project:
- There are three groups that achieve extreme old age. About 40 percent are ‘survivors’ who lived with chronic diseases for long periods. Another 40 percent are ‘delayers’ who escaped illness until their mid-80’s.The remaining 20 percent avoided serious age-related problems until over 100.
- Of the centenarians, about 70 percent of men but only 30 percent of women were still clear headed.
- Late motherhood seems to favour longevity.
Such studies are steadily extending what we know about ageing. Opinions vary on the relative impacts of lifestyle and genes with current views suggesting genes may account for about 30%.
For many people, the key issue is not how long we live, but how well. At My Longevity, we believe addressing longevity also enables people to add ‘good’ years – if they choose to. Our aim is to help you better understand both ‘how’ and ‘by how much’. The choice is then up to you.