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The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries

Time to tackle an age-old issue


We live in societies that celebrate longevity. In the UK, reaching the age of 100 is commemorated with a congratulatory message from the queen.

Marjorie Ngwenya
Marjorie Ngwenya is the president of the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries
Living beyond the age of 100 has many implications for the ways in which we conduct our lives

In Japan, which currently has the greatest number of known centenarians of any country, the occasion is celebrated by receipt of tokens from the prime minister. Across the world, many try to understand, and commercialise, the secrets and potions of those who have defied mortality the longest.

The Continuous Mortality Investigation (CMI) carries out research into mortality and morbidity experience and produces practical tools to use. 

The latest CMI Mortality Projections Model, released in March 2018, demonstrates a clear trend of lower rates of mortality improvement in the six years since 2011, but there still remains much debate about whether this trend will persist. Our calculations tell us that the majority of children born in developed economies today can expect to live for more than a century. There has been an increase in life expectancy for a number of decades. 

Living beyond the age of 100 has many implications for the ways in which we conduct our lives – the age at which we will retire, the assets in which we will invest, the number of times we will need to re-skill or change careers, the types of care we will need in later life, to name a few.

Longer lives may imply higher demand for health and care services. We can only hope that medical advances will continue to improve the quality of our lives – allowing us to continue to contribute to our economies, keep healthcare costs manageable and maintain our abilities.

Population increases, coupled with longevity, have given rise to many debates regarding the limitations of the earth’s resources. Demand for land for food is intensifying and putting tropical rainforests at risk. There will additionally be the demand for space to live, for food productivity and energy.

All these factors suggest that new variables and scenarios will emerge. There will be many implications for individuals, businesses and states. As actuaries, we are well placed to deal with the many permutations that are implied and to develop the creative solutions needed to solve these long-term puzzles.

I hope you have been engaging with the IFoA’s campaign on the United Nations’ sustainable development goals (SDGs). These goals seek to tackle the inequalities within our society, many of which affect life expectancy, and are relevant to developing and developed countries. We are asking members to share their experiences and thoughts on the SDGs with us as we think about what some of those creative solutions might be. 

On 23 April, we are fortunate to have Michael Green, executive director of the Social Progress Imperative, to deliver the IFoA’s annual Spring Lecture. He will talk about the SDGs, exploring the importance of measuring development in order to drive progress.

Marjorie Ngwenya is the president of the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries