Living to 100 years old may seem unthinkable to many. Just as inconceivable is to continue working beyond the age of 70. But this is what the welfare minister is telling Hongkongers to get prepared for. And the solution, he said, was to go for the lifelong public annuity scheme for a stable income after retirement. Commenting on the recent census data on mortality trends, Secretary for Labour and Welfare Law Chi-kwong said there could be more centenarians in future. Figures showed that life expectancies for males and females had substantially improved from 74.1 years and 79.4 years respectively in 1986 to 82.9 years and 88 years by 2020. Assuming the death rates continued to improve, he said babies born last year could live up to 100 years old. “It would be highly unlikely that they could retire at the age of 70,” he added. She lived to 122. But human lifespan may not have peaked, study finds That people around the world are expected to live and work longer is a phenomenon to be reckoned with. But the public could be excused for feeling unimpressed by Law’s advice. Many workers are struggling to lead a decent life at present, let alone planning for the future. Life expectancy is of course something out of one’s control. If given a choice, most people would not mind living beyond the age of 80 as long as health and wealth are not issues. Unfortunately, the existing health care and retirement protection systems leave much to be desired. The queue for treatment at public hospitals is notoriously long, while savings from the Mandatory Provident Fund scheme can hardly support a decent life in retirement. The advice for people to buy a lifelong annuity – a scheme that involves paying a lump sum upfront in return for a fixed monthly income until death – is well-intentioned. But the scheme is designed for those who already have considerable savings for retirement. Those who cannot make ends meet after retirement will have no choice but to turn to the government for help. A longer lifespan has as many implications for personal well-being as for public finance. Apart from urging people to plan ahead for retirement, the government must also better prepare for the challenges on health care and welfare arising from an ageing society.