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The majority of children born today will become centenarians but Irish society has yet to respond to the demands of an ageing population, a conference in Dublin has heard.
The Third Act Conference is named in reference to the so-called third act of life where, due to advances in medicine and technology, people are now able to retain functional and cognitive ability between their 50s and 80s before a pronounced decline begins in earnest.
The gathering heard that people in the modern age are now living up to 30 years longer than their grandparents, and a person now aged 60 has a 50 per cent chance of making it to 90.
It was added that life expectancy is increasing by an average of 2.5 years every decade, which equates to about three months extra for every passing year.
Third Act founder and UCD academic Dr Edward Kelly described the new dynamic as an exciting opportunity, but said Irish society had been slow to adapt to the increased life expectancy and a consequently ageing population.
“Never before have we had as many people reaching 50 years of age as the mid-way part of their lives. This truly is a new phenomenon of our time,” he said.
Dr Kelly added that people who reach this point in life need to be better accommodated going forward.
“In exploring what these concerns are, we start with the facts. The facts on human longevity have undoubtedly changed and as a result, so must we.
“Society assumes you are retiring at 60, and checking out, when really you are just moving on to a new period of life that could last 25 to 30 years – both the individual and society in general has a role to play in ensuring people get the most from their third act,” he said.
The meeting also heard from Dutch community care expert Jos de Blok, as well as Children’s Hospital Group chief executive Eilish Hardiman and Davys accountants chief financial planner Declan Hanley.