Olshansky on the Longevity Dividend

Another Slate article, this time S. Jay Olshansky on the Longevity Dividend: "Aging bodies with chronic diseases are not the same as young bodies with independently acquired infectious diseases. Yet medicine continues to act as if the diseases of aging are separate from the consequences of aging itself. ... While we can extend life in aging bodies through behavioral improvements and medical treatments, the time has arrived to acknowledge that our current model of reactive medicine, of trying to treat each separate disease of old age as it occurs, is reaching a point of diminishing returns. ... Many scientists and geriatric physicians now suggest that the primary goal of medical technology should not exclusively be life extension but, rather, lengthening the period of youthful vigor. Although efforts to combat disease should continue, one way to protect against the unwanted prolongation of old age while simultaneously extending the period of healthy life is to pursue the means to modify the key risk factor that underlies almost everything that goes wrong with us as we grow older - aging itself. Those of us working toward this goal have referred to this shift in approach to public health as the 'Pursuit of the Longevity Dividend.' ... Medical institutes and public health professionals across the globe are dedicated to combating the causes and consequences of heart disease, cancer, stroke, and a myriad of other fatal and disabling conditions that plague humanity, and many people are alive today because of their heroic efforts. These battles need to continue. But so too should we fight on a new front: aging itself."

Link: http://www.slate.com/id/2274468/pagenum/all/


I do wonder what the real differences are between Aubrey's opinion of ageing as damage versus Olshansky's goal to postpone ageing?

Really, where are the technical details that lead to these different strategies?

My guess is that significant component is psychological. Bear with me.

Olshansky recognizes ageing as a solvable problem, like any good scientist, but also recognizes what science doesn't actually know. He is conservative and so doesn't pursue the Aubrey engineering approach because it is too risky or unknown (or perhaps unknowable, as Olshanksy is rather old after all). Why waste one's hard earned respect and career on a goal that won't bear fruit until after one is dead, is high risk (and thus risks public ridicule from colleagues) and also is contrary to current belief of what is feasible. It is the later cultural problem which creates the desire to ridicule. It's a position of power.

We all do it. We all want to associate with powerful figures and what is more powerful than "Science" itself?

Posted by: Matthew Fuller at November 16th, 2010 9:53 AM
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