Jay Olshansky has seen the problem, and it is us—a population that is becoming older and sicker and is creating an economic burden for future generations. Olshansky, a professor of epidemiology at the University of Illinois at the Chicago School of Public Health, is a thought leader on aging and longevity. He and his colleagues have projected current health trends 50 years forward. They estimate that as life span continues to increase, so will the numbers of disabled elderly, nearing 30 million in the U.S. by 2060. By that time, according to government economists, Medicare coffers will have been depleted for decades, drained dry by the cost of caring for people with the chronic diseases of aging.
But Olshansky also envisions a solution in exceptional men and women like Jimmy Carter, Judi Dench, Desmond Tutu, Madeline Albright and Warren Buffett who have continued to make enormous contributions to their fields well into their eighth and ninth decades. His goal is to see that productive elders become the rule rather than the exception within the next 50 years. The key is to find the mechanism that keeps exceptional people healthy and productive over a long lifetime and to transfer it to everyone.