The Tithonus Error

So many, many people still believe that the result of longevity science will be that you are older and ever more frail for more years, with no hope of death. This is absolutely false: the goals are in fact rejuvenation of the old, repair of the biochemical damage of aging, and the extension of healthy, youthful life. But still people have the fate of Tithonus in mind, sunk into the collective consciousness through a hundred similar cautionary tales. So you'll see this sort of doleful op-ed from the Daily Mail: "To some of us, [longevity] seems a ghastly prospect. I am 62, and find life terrific. I get more work done than ever before, because my children have long ago left home and I remain fit. I take pills to keep my blood pressure down and waterworks functioning. ... It seems to some of us terrifying to imagine that we might survive to 100. Surely, the drear misery and loneliness that accompanies such age is not worth it for a birthday party, telegram from the Queen and maybe a paragraph in the local newspaper. Once mobility is gone, once the simplest actions of daily life become dependent upon others, it is hard to sustain self-respect. If science indeed continues to lengthen our lives, I believe that we shall have to be given a choice about opting out." The work of advocacy and education must continue - this is a sign that much remains to be done.



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