The 20-Year Gap: from a life full of years to years full of life

Cath and Stephen

The 20-Year Gap

Over recent decades life expectancy has risen in the UK, a success story resulting from improvements in lifestyles and medical care. Yet the onset of age-related disability has not receded as quickly. Across the UK’s local areas average disability-free life expectancy varies by just over 20 years. What should we do to reduce this 20-year gap?

One scenario of the future sees many of us living for longer in poor health, becoming dependent on medical support and care - a ‘medicalised vision’ of ageing. But the burden of ill-health in later life is not shared equally across the country. 

Built with pill bottles, this art installation is a thought-provoking data visualization of average life expectancy and average disability-free life expectancy for local areas across the UK. It is created by Nesta’s Dr Cath Sleeman, a data scientist who specialises in analysing and visualising complex data, and Stephen Bennett, an artist whose practice focuses on the role of art in translating science to policy.