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Never has 100 years old looked so good. The two ladies (left) from Wales who are the world’s oldest living twins hardly look their age – certainly my grandmothers  were in similar nick in their 80s.

For comparison, below is a picture of my great (great) aunt Nell, at 103, holding me, age 9 weeks old, in 1975.

Nell looks extraordinarily old, which is fair enough, but the two Welsh twins look a good 20 years younger.

great aunt nell

Great Aunt Nell (103) and Rob (9 weeks)

So, if we are looking so much younger at 100, why aren’t we setting records? Why aren’t we seeing people live to 150? Our life expectancy rises inexorably. What’s going on past 100?

Here’s a list of living so-called “supercentenarians”, and the remarkable thing is that no-one on the list is over 115. Why? There’s no-one close to the oldest people ever, who were Jeanne Calment and Shigechiyo Izumi (disputed) who lived to over 120.

Scientists have been saying for a long time that medical advances could mean people living to 150. But it’s not going to happen for at least another 35 years, given the current crop. What’s gone wrong?

There are two possibilities, which is that either the diet and lifestyle of people born in around 1890 still isn’t a good enough basis for 150 years of life, or frankly, we just aren’t programmed to live that long. Are we even emotionally capable of living through that much history?

Whatever the reason, the ultimate outlier, the age of the oldest person alive, went up in the 80s and 90s, but is coming back to where it was in the 1950s. So much for progress.

Source: Wikipedia

UPDATE: The economist also looks at the rising number of centenarians in their chart blog, but fail to mention the paradox.