A puzzling part to the equation has emerged. While humans are in fact living longer lives on average, the oldest age that the oldest people reach seems to be stubbornly and oddly precisely cemented right at 114.
A person born in the US at the turn of the 20th century could expect to live 49.2 years. Their ancestor born in 2003 could reasonably expect to see their 77th birthday. But while average lifespans continue to lengthen, the oldest of the old appear to be encountering a rather powerful limiting factor.
In 1990 there were 3,000 people 100 or older, the oldest of them being 114. Twenty years later the number of people aged 100 and over had grown to around 44,000, but the oldest was still 114.
Longevity researcher Aubrey de Grey, author of “Ending Aging,” was asked about this:
“Time and time again over the decades past demographers have been brutally misled by short-term phenomena, by statistics gathered only over a few years. Blips happen for all manner of impenetrable reasons. In this case we’re talking about people born in a small segment of time, around 1900, and most of them born in particular countries and going through certain types of life they might not have gone through had they been born 20 years previously or 20 years later.”