There are a lot of very old people living in the United States. We’re not talking about men and women who live beyond the average life expectancy of 79.8 years (for males, 77.4 years; for females, 82.2 years), according to the World Health Organization. We’re talking about seemingly super humans who are well beyond a century old.
Just a few weeks ago the U.S. Social Security Administration’s inspector general identified 6.5 million Social Security numbers that are older than 112 years. According to Social Security records, the individuals who were issued these numbers were born before June 16, 1901.
One individual, according to her Social Security Number, opened her first bank account in 1869. (We’ll assume it’s a her because women in general live longer.)
The problem stems from no death date ever being entered for those Social Security numbers, and those same numbers still being used for a variety of purposes, all of them fraudulent (unless, of course, you really are 112 years old or older). So, at least on paper, the individuals associated with those Social Security numbers have exceeded the maximum reasonable life expectancy.
The truth is, people aren’t really living that long. According to the Gerontology Research Group, only 35 people made it to the ripe-old of age of 112 as of October 2013. And that’s worldwide.
Living an extra-long time got us thinking about data and how it’s stored and backed up. How long does data “live”? The better question is: How long does the device on which the data is stored or backed up to live?
- Data stored on tape: Data stored on tape starts to disappear when the tape starts losing its magnetic charge. Not only is tape susceptible to wear and tear, high humidity and temperatures are problematic. Maybe 10 to 30 years, but we’re not talking centenary storage.
- Data stored on CDs and DVDs: According to the Optical Storage Technology Association, the unrecorded shelf life of CDs and DVDs is between 5 to 10 years. For recorded CDs and DVDs, perhaps 25 years.
- Data stored on drives: Hard to say. According to one study, three years is the point where hard drives start wearing out.
- Data in the cloud: Forever (even centenarians with fake Social Security numbers can’t compete).
Although cloud computing is relatively new, Mozy by EMC has been around since 2005, which makes us one of the oldest cloud backup services. If the Social Security Administration were to issue the Mozy cloud a Social Security number, our number would be in perpetuum.
BTW, if you’ve got your sights set on living to be a century old—or coming as close as possible—here is some information that should prove useful:
- Maintain some level of activity (like the doctor from Paris who even at the age of 99 walked up three sets of stairs every day on the way up to his study).
- Move to a geographical area where people live longer than average (if you don’t speak Japanese, it’s time to learn! Okinawans live longer than anyone else in the world).
- Eat, but not too much (and eating the right kinds of foods will help; foods such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains).