"...is not a part of natural aging"

If I had a dime for every time I saw the phrase "is not a part of natural aging," or words to that effect, in connection with a named age-related disease ... well, I'd have a nice big stack of dimes. Here's one:

[Rheumatoid arthritis] is not a normal part of aging. It is a specific condition with symptoms that can't be cured, but can be managed.

"Arthritis should not be considered just a part of the aging process or a normal part of getting older"

Except that arthritis was absolutely thought to be a part of the "normal aging process" - until it wasn't. The dividing line between solemnly named condition and mysterious process of aging is utterly arbitrary; the "normal aging process" only really exists if you want to define it into existence. When you say "normal aging," you are applying a name to a collection of changes, damage, diseases and medical conditions, some of which have their own well-worn taxonomy, and some of which don't. But all changes can be identified, and medical technology developed to repair, prevent and reverse them.

Whether and what we name these undesirable changes for the worse is rather beside the point.

The mantra of "not a part of the normal aging process" is irrational. It's an irrational response to the irrational acceptance of aging as normal - folk slowly carving off one piece of "normal aging" at a time by giving it a new name and repeatedly asserting its individual nature as a thing apart from aging. It works with the funding sources and regulators, so scientists have made something of a habit of this over the years.

This is all very silly, and has to break down at some point. The Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence (SENS), for example, takes a good stab at breaking down the whole of degenerative aging into seven categories of condition, damage and change. All are named and known by the scientific community, if not by the average household, and anyone can jump up and say "this decay right here - that's not a part of normal aging, because we can see it, understand it and fix it!"

What's left of "normal aging" after the researchers and medical development groups have done that? Not much, and good riddance to a bad idea.

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Comments

Your article really got me to thinking. Perhaps we are going about things the wrong way.

Why advocate "anti-aging" reaseach when we can just split aging into six or seven categories. Lets give each one of them a name, for instance "lysosomal storage disease" (or even better, some obscure latin name) and emphasise over and over that is not a part of natural aging.

We have already done it for one of them, namely cancer. Lets just do it for the rest of them, surely then we would get the funding.

Posted by: Marco at May 11th, 2007 2:21 AM

This is a great post. Very good point.

Posted by: Kip Werking at May 11th, 2007 4:15 AM

I've heard it so much.. it's strange.
People sometimes tell me when they have the option between live young or die normally they choose to die.

I wonder why..

They claim it's not naturnal to treat age.
But even if the statement is right, why not use it?

Posted by: Winterbreeze at May 11th, 2007 4:45 AM

You won't go anywhere until you fix vocabulary.

Posted by: t at May 11th, 2007 10:29 AM

Umm ... agreed, but rheumatoid arthritis is not an age-related disease, unless you count the young adults who comprise the highest risk group -- not the elderly.

Elderly people suffer from osteoarthritis, but the inflammatory arthridities are seen most commonly in the young, not the old.

Fine point, I know.

Posted by: JGH at May 11th, 2007 11:28 AM

The aging stuff is in its own wy funny! We can not provide health care for many of our citizens; we are wondering if social security will be around much longer; but confronting like a huge wave: global warming which combined with flooding, lack of drinkable water, energy scarcity etc etc makes living for an addtional 150 years a questionable goal.

Posted by: onan at May 11th, 2007 1:48 PM

onan: you're suggesting that people can't solve problems and therefore should just give up, suffer and die? The world is what we make of it, not vice versa.

Posted by: Reason at May 11th, 2007 6:48 PM

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