Why Isn't More Being Done Now to Help the Aged?

Researcher Tom Kirkwood here argues that lack of progress in aging and longevity science is only one manifestation of our communal lack of interest in providing tools to enable a better life for the old and the frail: "Although there are many who think that ageing begins at 40, 50 or 60, we are learning that the underpinning mechanisms of ageing play out throughout the life course. Appreciating the life course nature of ageing helps surmount the objection sometimes raised against research on ageing, namely, that we should set a lower priority on research for old people who have had their 'innings' already. Indeed, if we can deliver a world that gives greater health to older people, it will be our children and grandchildren who will benefit the most. We age, not because our genes programme our death but because our bodies accumulate a growing burden of faults in their cells, tissue and organs. ... Often, a relatively simple modification of the environment can remove what was previously an insuperable obstacle, an obvious example being, for a wheelchair user, the provision of a ramp and a door wide enough to take a wheelchair. For a person with arthritis of the hand, use of a conventional mobile phone may be impossible, so such a person is disabled with respect to making telephone calls while on the move. However, simple technological solutions exist, at least in principle, for this problem. Technology, properly developed and applied, will liberate large numbers of older people from entirely unnecessary social isolation and enforced dependency. The result, even if the technology solutions were funded entirely by the state resources, would be savings in the provision of high- dependency support services that would easily repay the necessary investments. However, there is no need to see the future provision of technology solutions as requiring state support. The market opportunities for companies are enormous already and growing every year. It is hard to escape the impression that what is holding these developments back is nothing less than a pervasive lack of imagination, propelled perhaps by equally pervasive ageism. It is here that there is a role for us all in fighting for the necessary change in attitude and effective commitment to fresh action."

Link: http://www.publicservice.co.uk/feature_story.asp?id=15472

Comments

I have an older mother-in-law suffering from, among other things, an untreatable autoimmune nerve disease that has left her extremely weak. I'm sure there are some devices that could help her, but she, like many of the infirm, doesn't want to make an effort to do anything. Like her, many elders sit idly by while their bodies fall apart, not taking the steps to help themselves until their will is gone and available tech goes unused.

Posted by: Mike McC at January 6th, 2011 8:00 AM

Yes, it's very ironic that our society simultaneously rejects both old people and anti-aging research. People know there's nothing good about getting old, but when you bring up the possibility of scientifically preventing it, they suddenly act like it's some great thing.

Posted by: William Nelson at January 6th, 2011 8:07 AM

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