The Rolling Stones have courted notoriety and flaunted with risk in equal measure as the world’s most enduring rock and roll band.

That all but one member of the group have lived to tell the tale, despite well-documented battles with substance and alcohol addiction, complex matrimonial strife, numerous run-ins with authority and the occasional tumble from a palm tree, is nothing short of remarkable.

No individual’s survival in the band is more extraordinary than that of guitarist Keith Richards, whose autobiography, Life, lays bare the debauched behaviour that took him and others to the edge and occasionally pushed them over.

He reveals how, in the late 1960s and early 1970s, the band’s anti-establishment stance made them enemies in the UK and, in particular the USA, where they were considered a corrosive and corrupting influence on the country’s youth.

For a decade at least, some authority figures perceived the Rolling Stones as a risk to civilised society. In the ensuing years, however, the band has been courted by politicians and heads of state from all over the world. The knighthood bestowed on Mick Jagger would have been inconceivable in the 1960s, when the Rolling Stones appeared to go out of their way to antagonise authority.

It is ironic, then, that as the Rolling Stones last month marked their 50th anniversary with concerts in London and the USA, their continued existence presents perhaps a bigger threat to global society than at any time in the past.

This is not to suggest that the group has returned to old ways - an illicit cigarette in a no-smoking venue is about as dangerous as they get these days. What should be alarming is the fact that they are still staging (relatively) high-octane performances beyond retirement age. For, if the Rolling Stones can still act - if not look - young, despite decades of drinking, smoking and drug-taking, there are significant implications for the millions who have led a more clean-living existence.
Moreover, this is set to bring a fundamental change to the landscape of risk.

The global population is ageing. According to the UN, since 2000 the number of people in the world aged 60 or over has exceeded the number of children under five. Europe’s low birth rates mean this imbalance will become even more acute in the future.

Many worrying implications emanate from this - not least the burden of taxation on governments and the effect of changing workforce demographics on businesses. For example, older people - even healthy ones - rely more on healthcare services, and better healthcare keeps them living longer. However, while the number of people living longer is increasing, they are being supported by a comparatively diminishing working population.

In many countries, older people can often work beyond state retirement age and fund their lifestyles through employment without undue reliance on the state. A more experienced workforce offers business advantages, but ageing employees also need to be looked after more, which involves significant costs.

There is also another downside. More older people working for longer - particularly in the current global economic strife - can result in younger people taking more time to step onto and then rise up the employment ladder. They are then less able financially to support themselves or their families and are perhaps more likely to need government assistance.

Many older people will, of course, continue to choose retirement at the first opportunity and herein lies the biggest problem. Governments around the world have been struggling with the burgeoning pension crisis for years. Most have chosen not to pursue the drastic course of action the situation requires, fearful of the scale of the backlash that would meet such a policy and also figuring they will be out of office by the time the pension problem explodes. But that day of reckoning is approaching fast.

Businesses have, through necessity of survival, taken steps to mitigate their risk of pension exposure, but more action is needed to keep their future financial obligations manageable - particularly as medical advances make extended longevity increasingly likely.

When, indeed if, they eventually decide to retire, the Rolling Stones should have no concerns over their pension future. Even if they did, any fears over financial insecurity could swiftly be allayed through another lucrative tour.

For the rest of us, however, that is not an option.