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Politics may come to be dominated by the old, who might vote themselves ever more generous benefits for which the young must pay.

Social Security and private pensions could be burdened well beyond what current actuarial tables suggest.

The few people who grew old were assumed, because of their years, to have won the favor of the gods. Beginning in the 19th century, that slowly changed.

Since 1840, life expectancy at birth has risen about three months with each passing year.

A graph of global life expectancy over time looks like an escalator rising smoothly.

The trend holds, in most years, in individual nations rich and poor; the whole world is riding the escalator.

Postwar medical research has focused on specific conditions: there are heart-disease laboratories, cancer institutes, and so on.