Someone born today will be here 100 years from now. In the most recent U.S. Census, about 17 individuals out of every 100,000 people were 100 years old or older. In raw numbers, that means there are 50,000-plus centenarians in the U.S. right now.
Are there more centenarians now than in the past? That question is not one that can be answered, but for most of the last century the number of governments not keeping bureaucratic records about facts concerning population has dwindled to almost none, and the number of countries committed to falsifying bureaucratic records has also dwindled to a very few.
(Some Americans of a certain age may remember television ads for yogurt, of all things, featuring Soviet citizens about whom it was claimed many were a century old or older. They weren’t. Not a one of them was. The capitalist yogurt company and the communist government with a fake bureaucracy found a mutual happy not-exactly-true lie to sell to those to whom they each wanted to sell things: yogurt in one case and the concept that a particular sort of government inculcates longevity in its population in the other.)
Thus the true number of centenarians and supercentenarians (those who live to be 110 and older) is knowable at the present moment, better than at any time in history. There may not be more people 100 years old and older right now than in decades past, but there are more that have been counted and verified as truly 100 years old and older. This will continue and perhaps we will see more centenarians per 100,000 people or perhaps we will learn that 17 per 100,000 (our current reality) is an anomaly, a remarkable and high number; perhaps when I turn 100 on November 18, 2068, I will be alone, the oldest man.
In 2012, the United Kingdom’s Office for National Statistics (ONS) officially disagreed with me. I will not be alone when I turn 100, it reported, and further, the number of super-elderly people will increase dramatically in the next century. To be fair, the ONS did not name me in its report. The report carries the explosive and yet somehow dull title, “One third of babies born in 2013 are expected to live to 100,” and in it the ONS said that based on its estimates, well, the title says it all. This is one prediction that only time can reveal.
Even if the numbers remain roughly 15–20 persons out of every 100,000, that means that it is likely that someone born today will be here on April 13, 2115. If the number will increase to 33%, wow. Each future centenarian born today will be something of a walking brochure of life as it is lived now and will be lived in years to come.
His or her first portrait with parents: taken with a phone held on a selfie-stick and posted within seconds on Instagram and Facebook and Twitter. Several dozen hearts are clicked on Instagram within seconds, several dozen thumbs-ups are awarded on Facebook, and several dozen diaper companies start trollowing the family’s account on Twitter. (I think I just came up with that term, “trollowing.”)
Not ten years ago, not one clause of the sentences above would have made sense or meant anything; ten years from now, they may not mean anything once again. As far as social media and technology are concerned, there will be descriptions of how a happy family celebrates five and ten years from now that will have phrases that might sound funny right now but will not then. The universal is that today’s birth will be celebrated.
I am 46, but because of the demographics of my family—both of my parents were older than 25 when I was born and both of them were born to parents already in their 30s, who were later children in their own families and born to parents in their 30s, too—my great-grandparents were all born in the 1860s and 1870s. One hundred years ago is not far away for a slow-developing family like this. (And if I ever become anyone’s father …)
Technology changes, and terminology changes with it, and the global nature of communication technologies can make the permanence of each change or each new thing seem ever more absolute and complete and yet ever more temporary and brief, but life will remain just as easy and just as difficult over the next century. Twenty years from now, I will hear my as-yet imaginary child notice that time seems to be moving quicker than in the past, just as I said to my parents 20 years ago.
Our selfie-stick (not yet purchased as of April 13, 2015) will be sitting in a closet somewhere, having been abandoned years before (in 2021) for something newer and thus, more “useful.”
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The WordPress Daily Prompt for April 13 asks, “A hundred years from now, a major museum is running an exhibition on life and culture as it was during our current historical period. You’re asked to write an introduction for the show’s brochure. What will it say?”
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