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The Encarta Encyclopedia defines aging as the “irreversible biological changes that occur in all living things with the passage of time, eventually resulting in death.”

In developed nations, life expectancy has increased more in the 20th century than it has in all of recorded history. A person born in the United States in 1995 can expect to live more than 35 years longer than a person born in 1900. Today more than 34 million Americans are 65 or older, accounting for about 13 percent of the population. By the year 2030, their numbers will more than double: One in every five Americans will be over age 65. A person who lives 100 years or more—a centenarian—was once a rarity, but today about 60,000 Americans are 100 years or older. By the year 2060, there may be as many as 2.5 million centenarians in the United States. The number of supercentenarians—people 105 years of age and older—will probably be as commonplace in the next century as centenarians are fast becoming now.

In some parts of the world, 16 to 18 percent of the population is already age 65 or older. By the year 2025, Japan is expected to have twice as many old people as children. Also by that time, there will be more than one billion older people worldwide. This increase in life expectancy is the result of better public health measures, improvements in living conditions, and advances in medical care. A marked reduction in infant mortality rates has also contributed to increased life expectancy statistics.

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