According to the latest figures, life spans in British Columbia are still on the rise. In 2005, life expectancy for newborns topped 81 years for the first time ever, up a little over two months from 2004:

To me, the most remarkable thing about this chart is that life expectancy growth has been so steady—the increases have been almost linear—and is showing no signs of slowing down. Which suggests that we’re nowhere near the end of life span increases. Indeed, as this article points out (abstract only, unless you’re willing to pay), lifespans around the world have grown fairly consistently for about 160 years. Moreover, mortality experts who have predicted over the years that we’re approaching an ‘ultimate ceiling’ for life expectancy have repeatedly been proven wrong. Which might suggest that lifespans will continue to rise for quite some time.

Of course, if current trends continue life expectancy in the province will approach 100 years by the time that this year’s newborns reach 81—as unthinkable now, perhaps, as a lifespan of 81 years might have been at the dawn of the 20th century. But even if the growth in life expectancy does slow down some, we’re still going to see major increases in the number of elderly people over the next few decades, as the baby boomers hit retirement age. Those demographic shifts are going to force some major rethinking about how we as a society deal with seniors—to make sure that their lives aren’t just long, but also pleasant and affordable.