Today, people in the developed world live to a much riper age. Although men fall off their perches a little earlier, among women, ages of 90+ are increasingly common.
But longevity isn't everything. It's quality of life that really matters. What older people want (and deserve) is a long and healthier old age not just physically, but mentally.
While people's genetic make-up inevitably plays its part, early-life nutrition is also critical. There is an increasing body of evidence that suggests we are what our mothers ate. However, having a good diet and regular exercise throughout our lives including into the middle and later years are now known to play a significant role in deciding whether we are 'healthy old' or just decrepit.
The food industry has been quick to pick up on this commercial opportunity (see the article on p64 on functional foods for a healthier old age). But, it would be fair to say, those involved in this area are only scraping the surface of what is possible to improve the health of the nation. If, for a moment, we put aside the huge obstacles the industry faces in achieving health claims approval, it is clear there is mounting evidence for the efficacy of a whole range of foods in slowing the natural degeneration of our bodies.
From products aimed at retaining muscle mass, which is lost with age in a process called sarcopenia, to those fortified with vitamins to slow loss of bone density; from glucosamine in foods, designed to maintain and repair joints, to active ingredients that slow the onset of macular degeneration in people's eyes, the industry is working on food and drink that will help us stay younger for longer.
And with dementia an increasing concomitant of an ageing population, expect to see a lot more research into ingredients that help to slow loss of mental acuity.
There is no magic bullet. But a good lifestyle and diet could help more of us into a healthier old age.