People are living far longer than they did at the start of the 20th century, a remarkable fact, that is arguably the greatest event that happened in the 20th century, to which in America the life expectancy was previously less than 50 years when the 20th century began, which became nearly 80 years of life expectancy when the 20th century ended. While there are a multitude of reasons why our life expectancy has greatly increased, the primary ones can be attributed to the vast improvements in health standards, hygiene, medical technology, drugs, immunizations, prenatal care, and nutrition. For instance, Infant mortality has dropped to just 6.14 infant deaths per 1000 births in America, whereas in the early 20th century that rate was calculated at the chilling rate of 140 infant deaths per 1000 births in America.
Infectious diseases created primarily by bacteria and viruses that were lethal or debilitating to Americans such as cholera, smallpox, influenza, tuberculosis, and yellow fever, have been negated today through immunizations and antibiotics. The great ability and effectiveness of modern medicine to stop epidemics and pandemics before they even occur is that phenomenal giant leap forward that mankind took during the 20th century and to which all of us should be forever grateful.
While there is a great deal to be said about our remarkable achievement in the extension of life, one must give just as much credit to the fact that the quality of life has also improved tremendously. That is to say that not only are we living longer but our ability to do things, to stay active, and to enjoy life has also grown longer, until the very late and terminal stages of physical life. This means that our pursuit of happiness has never been better than it is in today's world.
The next big question to ask is can we continue this increase in the progress of health in the 21st century, much as we did in the 20th century. That is to say, in the 20th century, life expectancy increased 60%; can we accomplish 60% again, 30%, or perhaps 10%? To put this in perspective, a 60% increase from 80 years of age would be 128 years of age, an age that no known modern human is said to have achieved. Yet before we dismiss this as outrageous, recognize too that all that has been accomplished before has been equally seen as miraculous, to which medicine, the health industry, and individuals, are motivated to build on previous success, especially considering the not so welcomed alternative.
It is therefore certainly no stretch of the imagination to believe that our lifespan and quality of life will continue to improve, but it is also conceivable, that we may soon reach the point where accomplishing such a thing may be limited to a select few, because unlike great antibiotics and drugs of the past, which are readily available at a reasonable price for all, future life span extensions may be something that is specifically targeted and priced for certain people that is distinct within that person, and consequently is not something that can be "scaled up" to the general public.
After all, essentially the people of the richest countries live the longest, and within that dynamic, there are motivated and successful rich people who are willing to actively do what they need to do in order to achieve an even greater and better quality lifespan, to wit not all of those people are particularly concerned about whether me and you are also able to enjoy those same privileges.