“Our ageing world … is brilliant news.”

That’s how you spell “aging” in the UK, and that’s Guardian columnist Zoe Williams’s take on this week’s US Census Bureau report on the unprecedented aging of the world population. Calling out an alarmist press for presenting this demographic shift as either a crisis or a burden, she exposes the standard fallacies, pointing out that people will continue to work well past traditional retirement ages and be healthy enough to do so.

What are the paradoxes of aging well?

I’ve been working on the Introduction for the book proposal, and am delighted by the fact that a number of ideas fell nicely into place. One of them was the framing of three central paradoxes of aging well.  The first I knew intuitively.  The third one was a complete surprise when I encountered it through my reading; then (duh!) I realized that it mirrored my own experience. The second one I only figured out a few weeks ago, while trying to synthesize research findings.

Your money or your life

When I first heard the term “longevity risk”, I figured it was medical: a hazard associated with some new fountain-of-youth drug or diet. Silly me! It used to refer to the risk borne by pension funds or life insurance companies that guaranteed lifetime benefits. Then employer pension plans migrated to more volatile 401(k) plans. Then the market crashed and 401(k)s turned into 201(k)s.  “Longevity risk” is now the chilly term for the prospect that more and more Americans will outlive their retirement savings, spending their final years despairing and destitute.

Slackers take note!

I’ve been wondering all along which personality traits contribute to a productive old age.  Two researchers at the University of California, Riverside have nailed one for me: conscientious people live longer.  Their study showed that conscientious people are less likely to take risks, to smoke or drink to excess, to gravitate towards more stable jobs and relationships — and to live an average of two to four years longer.  

The secret to a long life: become a wealthy Asian-American man!

How much longer is a Connecticut resident likely to be around than someone who lives in Mississippi? Three full decades. That’s not the scariest statistic in the new Human Development Index report on well-being in the United States. The life expectancy gap between Asian-American males and black Americans in those states is a staggering 30 years.

Go gray in Baltimore, get a guy in Pittsburgh

The latest census data is out, and regional papers are picking up on it. In Baltimore County, the 85+ population is growing fast: up 40% between 2000 and 2007, and up 16.5% in the city itself. They’re paving the way for boomers (ages 55 to 64), whose numbers in the area rose by a third over the same period, July 2000 to July 2007. Among the old old, demographers credit overall longevity and better health care.