Although some folk have lived to a grand old age since the earliest recorded history, it has not been a common expectancy until recent decades.
Even 50 years ago, people typically retired from jobs at the age of 65 and did not live long after that.
Now we are in a golden age in which people from all social backgrounds are living until well into their 80s, perhaps even 90s, and sometimes staying active in those years also.
Last year the News Letter ran articles on elderly people who were driving cars aged in their 80s and 90s.
This sort of freedom in old age is a social revolution that has greatly enriched people’s quality of life in their twilight years.
For anyone who approaches their pensionable years with apprehension, there are growing numbers of role models who demonstrate that there is no need to be anxious at advancing years.
In Northern Ireland, Ian Paisley was already in his 80s when he was appointed first minister.
More recently, three famous figures have been in the news due to ill health.
The former South African president Nelson Mandela, aged 94, has been in hospital for a recurring lung infection.
The Duke of Edinburgh, who is 92 today, is also in hospital, recuperating from exploratory abdominal surgery.
And the popular TV naturalist Sir David Attenborough, who is in his late 80s, cancelled a working tour of Australia to undergo heart surgery.
All of these men have stayed extraordinarily busy late in life.
Prince Philip’s spouse, the Queen, is similarly remarkable and inspiring, now aged 87.
Such levels of involvement in late life are an inspiration to millions of people of all ages, who themselves hope that advances in medicine coupled with a measured lifestyle will assist them in also achieving a long, fulfilled retirement.