There are now more than 12,000 people in Britain who are 100 or older, five times the number that there were 30 years ago. Meanwhile, one in 121 of us is over 90, enough to populate a city the size of Edinburgh. We might not yet be Japan – which has more than 50,000 centenarians and fully 1 per cent of the population living into their 90s – but we are still doing pretty well.
Yet our ageing population is an oft-quoted bane of Britain’s future. The longer we all live, doom-mongers routinely point out, the more unaffordable the pension bill that must be paid by a steadily diminishing cadre of working-age taxpayers. Meanwhile, the strain on the health service, let alone our grossly ill-equipped social-care system, is equally unsustainable.
All of which is both troubling and true. But, even faced with complicated practicalities, let’s not forget the wonder of our new-found longevity. Our 12,000-plus centenarians are a triumph to be celebrated not a tragedy to be bemoaned. And where they lead, it can only be hoped that – whatever the impact on our out-dated public services – the rest of us will follow.