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Living to 100? Longer Lifespans Call for New Tech

We build tech to solve everyday, common, and present needs. But what happens when once-rare needs become common?

Living to 100 — or even decades beyond that — may soon be the norm. As the average lifespan grows, what new tools might help us make the most of those years?

Stanford University is tackling that exact question. Its Longevity Project studies how much longer human lifespans could impact education, personal finances, and of course, healthcare.

Living to 100 Starts With Our Health

As lifespans grow, so must the IoT. Expect health tracking tools like Fitbit to look very basic five years from now. And possibly be required.

TEDFellow and LogicInk co-founder Skylar Tibbits is testing a temporary tattoo that becomes a visual timer for when it’s exposed to sunlight. Although it’s not yet ready for mass use, the tattoo points to where health-tech it headed.

At the latest CES conference, health tech took center stage. The top trend was incorporating sensors in devices we already use, such as earbuds that test for hypertension.

The theory is that health tech that doesn’t add too, disrupt, or distract from the user’s routing is in prime position for adoption.

Still, these are small steps. The big picture is that health tech is headed toward a check-engine light for the human body. As birth control becomes more accessible, healthcare systems will shore up declining birth rates by helping the living live longer.

Imagine a world when at the first sign of a health problem, an automated message is sent to your doctor’s office.

Tests and prescriptions are ordered automatically, letting human doctors focus on the most pressing conditions and cases.

There will be kinks in that system, of course. But sensors and automation will catch diseases earlier and make our healthcare system more efficient. Customized care and longer lives are sure to follow.

Thinking Beyond Healthcare

Current educational and economic systems are built on the assumption that most people live to about 80, not 100.

Think about all the decisions that must change in that new world.

Everything from investing strategies to exercise regimens to retirement plans must change. Even the mid-life crisis must be recalibrated.

Transportation, too, must change as we live longer.

More centenarians mean more people who cannot drive themselves. Ridesharing is already on the rise, but America’s public transportation systems must improve as well.

The most significant changes in living to 100 will likely occur in the classroom and workplace.

Right now, we learn everything we need for our careers by our mid-20’s. Even with lifespans hovering just south of 80, that seems like an unreasonable expectation.

Partnered with Stanford on the Longevity Project is Instructure, which is looking for ways to make learning a lifelong process. Instructure’s Canvas learning management system already has 30 million users in the primary and secondary school systems.

A joint poll with Morning Consult found that 71% of people ages 18-29 already expect to receive continuing education through their employer.

In a world where most people live to 100, continuing education must become the norm. Especially as the pace of change quickens, workers must continuously add skills to remain marketable.

The increased focus by employers on continuing education may improve retention rates, reversing a decades-long decline.

But how does the look and feel of education change? What does supplemental education look like?

Gamified learning apps like Babbel and Duolingo offer a window into that world. Lighthearted competition delivered through mobile devices may be key to cost-effective continuing education.

Educators and employers are already thinking about how to improve upon our educational, financial, and healthcare systems to accommodate 100-year lifespans.

They’re not there yet, and we are not there yet. But the good news is that we have time — a lot of it, apparently.

About ReadWrite’s Editorial Process

The ReadWrite Editorial policy involves closely monitoring the tech industry for major developments, new product launches, AI breakthroughs, video game releases and other newsworthy events. Editors assign relevant stories to staff writers or freelance contributors with expertise in each particular topic area. Before publication, articles go through a rigorous round of editing for accuracy, clarity, and to ensure adherence to ReadWrite's style guidelines.

Brad Anderson
Former editor

Brad is the former editor who oversaw contributed content at ReadWrite.com. He previously worked as an editor at PayPal and Crunchbase.

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