Sometimes I read something that both inspires and concerns me. This recent article about the scientists working to “solve ageing” and a $1M prize for scientists to “hack the code of life”, is just one such article. The prize relates to a challenge to teams to restore “vitality and extend lifespan in mice by 50%”. Several wealthy individuals and coporations seem to be actively engaged in these pursuits.
There is an increasing number of people realising that the concept of anti-ageing medicine that actually works is going to be the biggest industry that ever existed by some huge margin and that it just might be foreseeable
It hasn’t taken long for people to ask the question about quality of life if we do manage to enable people to live 120 years or more. What I like within that discussion is the concept of “healthspan” instead of “lifespan” – how many years of quality healthy life can we have? And I was very glad to read this –
The standard medical approach – curing one disease at a time – only makes that worse, says Jay Olshansky, a sociologist at the University of Chicago School of Public Health who runs a project called the Longevity Dividend Initiative, which makes the case for funding ageing research to increase healthspan on health and economic grounds. “I would like to see a cure for heart disease or cancer,” he says. “But it would lead to a dramatic escalation in the prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease.”
This kind of thinking seems still far to uncommon. We cannot create healthy lives by “curing one disease at a time”. And even if we were able to cure a number of chronic diseases, we have to think through what it means for people. We are all going to die from something. Can we reasonably choose to avoid dying from one disease without increasing our chances of dying from others?
Instead this kind of approach is needed, and is beginning to be explored –
By tackling ageing at the root they could be dealt with as one, reducing frailty and disability by lowering all age-related disease risks simultaneously, says Olshansky.
I don’t know about ageing, but it does seem to me that we could do with researching how we maintain health, how we develop resilience and vitality, and how we support growth and development. In other words, how do we stay healthy exactly? And how do we become healthy again when we are ill?
But apart from the scary ideas of genetic engineering and other “bioscience” technologies held by the richest individuals and companies, what would it mean if we could enable the average person to live 120 years?
What would it mean for education? What would it mean for work? What would it mean for living together?
What do you think?
How might living to 120 change the way you are living your life now? How might it change your plans?