How Long Can We Live?
People in general are living longer, causing many to wonder, ‘How long can we live?’
ACCORDING to The New Encyclopædia Britannica (1995), in the past, Pierre Joubert was generally accepted as having lived the longest. In 1814 he died at age 113. True, others are said to have lived longer, but their ages were not creditably documented. Good documentation, however, has verified that a number of people have lived longer than Pierre Joubert.
Jeanne Louise Calment was born in Arles, southeastern France, on February 21, 1875. Her death on August 4, 1997—more than 122 years later—received much publicity. In 1986, Shigechiyo Izumi of Japan died at age 120. The Guinness Book of Records 1999 lists 118-year-old Sarah Knauss as the oldest person at the time that was written. She was born on September 24, 1880, in Pennsylvania, U.S.A. When Marie-Louise Febronie Meilleur of Quebec, Canada, died in 1998 at age 118, she was 26 days older than Sarah.
Indeed, the number of the very old has risen dramatically. The number of centenarians is projected to increase to over 2.2 million during the first half of the next century! Similarly, the number of people 80 years of age and older increased from 26.7 million in 1970 to 66 million in 1998. That is a 147-percent increase, compared with a 60-percent increase for the total world population.
And it is not simply that people are living longer. Many are also accomplishing things that most 20-year-olds cannot do. In 1990, 82-year-old John Kelley completed a marathon—a 26-mile 385-yard [42.195 km (42,195 m)] race—in five hours and five minutes. In 1991, 84-year-old great-grandmother Mavis Lindgren covered that distance in seven hours and nine minutes. And more recently, a 91-year-old man finished the New York City Marathon!
This is not to say that aged ones in the past did not accomplish astonishing feats. At 99 years of age, the Biblical patriarch Abraham “began running to meet” his guests. At 85 years of age, Caleb proclaimed: “As my power was then [45 years earlier], so my power is now for the war, both to go out and to come in.” And the Bible says of Moses that when he was 120 years of age, “his eye had not grown dim, and his vital strength had not fled.”—Genesis 18:2; Joshua 14:10, 11; Deuteronomy 34:7.
Jesus Christ spoke of the first man, Adam, and the ark builder Noah as historical individuals. (Matthew 19:4-6; 24:37-39) Genesis says that Adam lived to be 930, and Noah 950. (Genesis 5:5; 9:29) Have people really lived that long? Can we live even much longer, perhaps forever? Please examine the evidence in the following article.