What an "ignited" older adult will look like in 2035 by Richard H. Carmona, MD, MPH, FACS
Mark Twain said that life would be better if we started at 80 and worked down to 18. George Burns said as he smoked his cigar, "If I had known I was going to live this long, I would have taken better care of myself." He lived vigorously for 100 years. Being the comedian he was, when asked what he would like for his 90th birthday, he said, "A paternity suit"! Both Mark Twain and George Burns were "ignited" seniors in their time who lived twice their life expectancy and thrived through their last days. Based on their birthdates, they were anomalies not only for their longevity, but also due to their profound productivity through their entire long, ignited life spans. They indeed preserved and enhanced their brains' neural networks and cognitive ability. Today, the world is facing disruptive change without precedent. We will soon have more older people than children, and centenarians are becoming commonplace. Many questions arise from these seismic demographic shifts. Can we maintain or enhance health and cognitive ability as we age? How will society address these issues? What roles will technology and science play in supporting our seniors to stay ignited? ... Let's briefly look at the demographics and science of aging before addressing the concept of an ignited senior, how society must adjust, and the impact of technology and science on the ability of our older adults to "ignite."