If current life-expectancy trends continue, the future of many humans living to 100 may be near, transforming society in surprising ways. What if, aging is the root cause of many chronic diseases, and aging can be slowed?
Most scientists studying the biology of aging agree that someday research will result in the ability to slow down the human aging process substantially and extend our productive, youthful years. The very optimistic researcher Dr Aubrey de Grey believes that key biomedical technology is now within reach. This technology would not only slow aging but periodically reverse age-related physiological decay, leaving us biologically young into an indefinite future.
In their 2008 book, “Ending Aging: The Rejuvenation Breakthroughs That Could Reverse Human Aging in Our Lifetime”, Dr de Grey and his research assistant Michael Rae describe the details of this biotechnology. They write about their belief that there is someone alive today who will live to be a thousand years old. The most realistic way to combat aging, they suggest, is to rejuvenate the body at the molecular and cellular level, removing damage and restoring us to a biologically younger state. De Grey writes that the real issue, surely, was not which metabolic processes cause aging damage in the body, but the damage itself.
In March 2017 National Science reporter Jake Sturmer wrote about Professor David Sinclair’s (Harvard and UNSW professor) experiments. These experiments showed that when mice were given NMN therapy, their cells were better at repairing DNA damage caused by radiation exposure and ageing. They used 20 month old mice (equivalent to 60-70-year-old humans) and gave them NMN. The result was that many aspects of ageing were reversed. Their DNA repair activities went up to youthful levels. They were more resistant to radiation and should therefore be more protected against cancer and ageing. Human trials of NMN therapy would have started in 2017.
While scientists like Dr. De Grey and Prof. Sinclair believe otherwise, a new study suggests that the upward trajectory of life span does have a ceiling, and that we have already hit it. Scientists at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, in New York, believe that human life expectancy probably peaked in 1997.
These researchers believe that imperfections in the copying of genes will always mean there is finite limit to human life. They claim that 125 years is the limit of human lifespan and the chances of exceeding 125 is just one in 10,000. They wisely suggest “Perhaps resources now being spent to increase lifespan should instead go to lengthening healthspan – old age spent in good health.”
Aging population – a new view of retirement
In Japan society is dominated by the old. Old political leaders. Old judges. With each passing year, as longevity increases, the intergenerational imbalance worsens. The old demand benefits for which the young must pay. People in their 20s become disillusioned and disheartened. National debt increases at an alarming rate. The median age is 45, and it will jump to 55 by 2040. Japan is on its way to becoming an entire nation of senior citizens. Innovation and fresh thinking is needed.
In America the median age is 37. The number of Americans 65 or older could reach 108 million in 2050. Both the US Senate and the US House of Representatives are the oldest they’ve ever been. The average senator is 62 years old. The average representative is 57.
In 1940, the typical American who reached age 65 would ultimately spend about 17 percent of his or her life retired. This figure has increased to 22 percent. Today, around 72,000 people over 100 years of age live in the United States, but if current trends continue, that number will reach approximately 1 million by 2050. Over the last two hundred years, life expectancy has increased by two or three years every decade.
Early-retirement options are appealing if life is short, but savings might be depleted when a retiree reaches the 80s. Many people consistently underestimate how long they will live—a convenient assumption that justifies retiring early and spending now, but causes dependency over the long run. Many people may prefer continuing to work- gradually changing their financially rewarding and stressful careers for less pressured, less highly paid but more fulfilling ones. This process could help ease aging people into volunteer service roles. A longer health span becomes essential.