Oct. 1, 2009 -- Reaching the age of 100 may become pretty ordinary for most babies born in rich countries since 2000, according to a new report.
"If the pace of increase in life expectancy in developed countries over the past two centuries continues through the 21st century, most babies born since 2000 in France, Germany, Italy, the U.K., the USA, Canada, Japan, and other countries with long life expectancies will celebrate their 100th birthdays," states the report, published in The Lancet.
The report comes from researchers including Kaare Christensen, MD, of the Danish Aging Research Centre at the University of Southern Denmark.
Christensen and colleagues note that life expectancy in most developed countries keeps rising and shows no sign of slowing down. But they also point out that it remains to be seen if obesity, which has also been rising, will put the brakes on rising life expectancies.
Christensen's team predicts that societies will stop looking at life as consisting of three phases -- childhood, adulthood, and old age -- and start dividing "old age" into a "third age (young old)" and a "fourth age (oldest old)."
"Very long lives are not the distant privilege of remote future generations -- very long lives are the probable destiny of most people alive now in developed countries," write the researchers.
Will people be healthy in their "fourth age"? It may be too soon to tell.
Christensen and colleagues say there is "sparse" data on health among people age 85 and older. But they also point to earlier detection and better treatment of many conditions, including cancer and heart disease.
For the record, Japan has the world's longest life expectancy -- 83 years for babies born in 2007, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
Life expectancy is 77.9 years for U.S. babies born in 2007, according to preliminary data from the CDC.