Friday, July 13, 2007

How Long do you Want to Live?

Scientist Aubrey de Grey, called a lunatic by some and a visionary by others, says that gerontologists want to understand aging but are not doing anything about it.

According to de Grey, old age is "engineering system failure," and with his seven-step strategy SENS (Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence), we could eliminate cellular damage and live to 125 and longer in disease-free bodies that do not age. Even some of de Grey's many critics praise him for "getting research scientists to think outside the box."

De Grey believes that "Aging kills 100,000 people a day. There is a moral obligation to combat cancer, diabetes, and other diseases. Aging is just the same."

Aubrey de Grey and his critics alike urge more government backing for aging-related medicine, "a concerted effort to slow aging." Some scientists have extended the lives of lab mice by 40 percent by cutting their calorie intake drastically. This would translate into an average human life expectancy of 112, but de Grey believes "humans might live to 1,000."

Of course the consequences for society would be huge: for example, twice as many U.S. retirees as working people and a retirement age climbing in 85. There's no need to worry anytime soon. Such extended life spans seem unlikely.

That said, this issue is interesting to think about. Would you want to live to 112 or beyond? Most of us seniors want to remain healthy, but could we handle the other possible consequences of living so long? I suspect that the answer for most of use would be a qualified "No."

Check out the SENS web site at
Source: Matousek, Mark. "Long-distance Living," AARP The Magazine, July/August 2007.

Copyright 2007 by Marlys Marshall Styne

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