Back in 1800, a person could expect to reach the end of their life after just three decades on the planet. Global life expectancies ranged from 26 on the African continent to 36 in Europe and North America; on average, people lived to be 29.
In just two centuries, humanity has more than doubled its life expectancy. The World Health Organization estimates that on average, a person born in 2016 can expect to live until 72.
As people live longer, thanks to advances in medicine and greater access to health care, we’re getting older as a whole. Just two years ago, there were 962 million adults over 60 on the planet (pdf), up from 382 million in 1980. That population is expected to hit 2.1 billion by 2050. By 2100, people 65 and older will make up between 20% and 40% of most countries’ populations; right now, those figures are between 5% and 30% at most. At the same time the global aging population is expanding, we’re having fewer children: By 2030, older adults will outnumber children 10 and under.