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In collaboration with Retro Report

Future of Aging

By 2020, people over age 65 will outnumber children under age 5. Humanity faces an urgent question on an unprecedented scale: How do we care for an aging population who can’t work, and harness the contributions of those who can?

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Future of Aging

Where We Thought We’d Be

Hindsight is always 20/20. Here are some predictions that got the future right—or spectacularly wrong.

  • 1931

    Human repairs

    In “The Jameson Satellite,” a short story by Neil R. Jones, a man’s body is kept at absolute zero as it orbits around the earth. He’s perfectly preserved for millions of years—until the Zoromes, an alien cyborg race, show up. They’ve worked out a way to live forever by swapping out geriatric limbs and organs for mechanical ones: “When one part of the mechanical men wore out, it was replaced by a new part, and so the Zoromes continued living their immortal lives which saw few casualties.”

  • 1935

    You spin me around

    Editors at Science and Mechanics magazine proposed strapping the aging into an “Old Age Rejuvenator Centrifuge.” In this mind-boggling illustration, about a dozen people snooze on twin beds, set on “a large revolving disc” with their heads facing out and their feet facing up. They’d be whizzed around and around to allow centrifugal force to do its magic, supposedly helping cardiac and vascular disabilities. “This mechanism would facilitate the functions which during the day are inhibited by gravity,” they proposed.

  • 1964

    The big freeze

    After reading science fiction like Jones’s short story, the aforementioned Robert Ettinger envisaged a future known as “the Freezer Era.” He believed that thousands of people would be able to freeze and thaw themselves in perpetuity, spending months at a time having a nap in space, then being reanimated back on ground. This kind of Earth timeshare would “make room for others” on an overcrowded planet while also extending individuals’ lives.

  • 1965 (for 2000)

    Man + machine

    Futurist heavyweight Herman Kahn (who was the inspiration for Dr Strangelove) thought that science advances would make people healthier and hereditary and congenital defects less common. For what science couldn’t fix, he believed we’d use “cyborg techniques” such as “mechanical aids or substitutes for human organs, sense, limbs” to extend the length of our lives.

  • 1986

    Baby ka-boomers

    Journalist Phillip Longman predicted an age war: As people keep living longer, unborn generations will have to deal with the problems that their elders create. With baby boomers unable to save for their own long-lasting retirement, for instance, their children would be saddled with the costs.