It’s not that skeptical scientists don’t believe that hundreds of thousands of people will be celebrating their 100th birthdays in the years to come. But the buck pretty much stops there, they say.

“It’s true that we’re living about 30 years longer than we did at the beginning of the century,” says Dr. Olshansky. “But if you look at the data, those advances are due to how much we’ve been able to lower infant and child mortality. Now that we’re trying to extend life expectancy on the back end of life, those improvements have slowed dramatically.”

In 1993, there was actually a small dip in life expectancy, followed by a stagnant period in 1994. Since then, we’ve made some gains. Life expectancy is expected to pick up some steam again, but the U.S. Census Bureau has conservative estimates. By 2050, they predict, the average man will add about 7 years to his life, living to about 79-7 years. If they’re right, plenty of men would reach the century mark, but not much longer than that.

“Though people like to talk about how much we understand the aging process, that doesn’t mean that we’ll be able to do anything about it,” says Dr. Siegfried Hekimi of McGill University. “We can mutate certain genes in worms so that they live five times longer, but that’s by slowing them down metabolically so that they live five times slower. You have to stop living to stop aging, and I doubt that people want to do that.”


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