An Interesting Advertising Dynamic, Illustrative of the Ongoing Change in Attitudes Towards Aging and Longevity

The thing I noted about this article is that Prudential is prominently sponsoring it, as a part of a larger advertising effort to make people think about longer lives in the context of their future finances - that there is a good chance they will live longer than they expect to. You might recall that the company was putting up provocative billboards about radical life extension not so long ago. This approach is both clever and timely on their part, and, given that it will sway public opinion and raise the profile of longevity science, I think it will aid research and fundraising. It is also one of many signs that the zeitgeist on aging and medicine is going through a phase change, right now, all around us.

There is in fact great uncertainty in the degree to which healthy life will be extended over the next few decades, and this stems entirely from the fact that rejuvenation biotechnology is in its early stages. One investor more or less, one research group joining or leaving, could swing the future timeline a decade or two in either direction. The actuarial community has been aware of this uncertainty in projections for years now, and the massive industry of insurance and pensions is one of the channels by which the public will become more knowledgeable about the prospects for developing rejuvenation therapies soon enough to matter for you and I.

How long do you think you'll live? Seventy years? Seventy-five? Most Americans don't see themselves living all that long past retirement age - and why would they want to, anyway? Old age is often thought of as a drag, a tedious and unpleasant slide into sickness. Even if everybody could make it to 100, would they want to? "For years, we've heard this myth: The older you get, the sicker you get," says Dr. Thomas Perls, a specialist in aging and longevity. "And at some point, we're all going to have to recognize that it's just not true. We should take an enabling and positive view of aging, because most Americans generally have the genetic makeup, the blueprint, to live at least into their late 80s. It just depends on what they do with that blueprint."

After developing his hypothesis about our bodies' potential for a healthy old age, Perls decided to launch a new study to confirm his theories, this time focusing on Seventh Day Adventists. According to the dictates of their religion, Adventists are forbidden to smoke, drink, or eat meat, and they are encouraged to exercise regularly and pray frequently. (For believers, prayer often relieves stress.) And almost all of them live into their 80s and 90s.

The Adventists' astonishing longevity was made even more intriguing by disparate genetics. As a group, they are geographically and ethnically heterogeneous; in other words, they don't have any obvious genetic predisposition to longevity. That fact seems to contradict another common myth: that only people with certain protective genes can live an extremely long life. "Many people assume that without those protective genes, we don't have a good shot at longevity," Perls says. "But the Adventist study shows that that's just not true."

Link: http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/prudential/2013/09/a_longer_lifespan_if_we_can_afford_it.html

Comments

"For years, we've heard this myth: The older you get, the sicker you get [...]"

That's a myth? You could've fooled me. Strike that, I'm still fooled, because I don't see anything about the Seventh Day Adventist study that would refute the claim that people get sicker as they get older.

Aging is the product of accumulating damage leading to all kinds of infirmity. I don't see how you could deny that more accumulation will lead to more infirmity. The force of logic and day-to-day observation behind that seems quite powerful.

Posted by: José at September 20th, 2013 8:39 PM

Jose is right for many many people. Not all though. I'm 82 and fit as a butcher's dog, Calorie restiction, Intense Interval and resistance training, and a sunny disposition, means I visited a doctor in 1969 and 1996 for wrenched back and suspect mole - no treatment! BP av 108/70,14% Body fat,1.5. Blood sugar 78. 1.5 miles run 18.6 mins. Mother similar, Aunts to 98.True, as a youngster I didn't always look after myself, which is where good genes protected me I think !.

Posted by: simon mayhew at September 23rd, 2013 7:51 AM

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