This Week's Report: "Prolonging Life"

Life expectancy has been rising steadily in the United States, and by 2050 more than 1 million Americans will be at least 100 years old – 20 times the total in 2000. The trend has some politicians and policymakers worried about the impact of an expanding elderly population on Social Security and Medicare costs.

Nonetheless, as freelancer Beth Baker explains in this week’s fascinating report, scientists are working to prolong human life even more, with some envisioning a day when people routinely live far past the century mark –independently and in good health. Some futurists even talk of using therapies and technology to help humans remain hearty for hundreds – if not thousands -- of years.

But many gerontologists and ethicists say such notions are far-fetched. The human body has a limited lifespan, and the goal of science should be quality – not unbounded quantity -- of life, they argue. This report is ideal for classes focusing on the ethics of science, Social Security and Medicare policy, U.S. and global demographics and the sociology of aging.

(For other recent reports on aging, see Alan Greenblatt, “Aging Population,” CQ Researcher, July 15, 2011,; and Greenblatt, “The Graying Planet,” CQ Global Researcher, March 15, 2011,

--Thomas J. Billitteri, Managing Editor