While it is true that it never crosses the mind of most folk to actually do anything personally to help along progress in medical science, there is an enormously greater level of grassroots support for working on any specific named age-related condition than there is for work on aging itself. Which is somewhat strange, as all of the former are caused by the latter. Yet the nominal and incoherent position of the average fellow in the street is that on the one hand he doesn't want to suffer cancer or heart disease or neurodegenerative conditions, and is generally pleased that there are people out there somewhere trying to build cures, but yet on the other hand he is perfectly fine with aging to death on the same schedule as his grandparents, and is even made a little uncomfortable by the idea that anyone out there is working to slow or reverse aging.
Even if we set aside politics and public funding, the philanthropic and for-profit resources directed towards research and development of treatments for late stage age-related conditions are enormous in comparison to funding for research into aging itself. At this stage the best thing that could happen for the future of all of this medical development is for a sizable and increasing fraction of this flow of funds to be directed towards rejuvenation research, work on repairing the causes of aging so as to prevent and reverse all of its consequences. It is a much more efficient and beneficial path forward than the continued efforts to patch over the consequences after they have happened, but it just doesn't have much support at the moment.
This sorry state of affairs will change for the better, and indeed is changing for the better even now, but progress here will continue far more slowly than it might unless some group figures out the key to the lock. We all know that advocacy can in the best of circumstances change the course of funding and attention for any given cause in medical science, producing a large growth in directed resources and real research in the labs and the clinics. Look at AIDS research for a comparatively recent example of great success in patient advocacy: from near nothing to very large investments in research and development in a very short span of time. It can be done.
The goal that must be accomplished for rejuvenation research is in theory a simpler one than producing support from nowhere for a new condition. It is to take the existing hope and approval for better treatments for age-related conditions and transfer some of that to the development of treatments for the root cause of those conditions, which is to say aging and the few forms of damage in and between our cells that cause us to suffer and die in so many varied ways. This seems simple and obvious, but people have been trying for a while to make this pitch to the public with limited success to show for it to date. It isn't easy, and bringing the world around to this way of looking at aging and ill health is taking time and effort.
The most important of the present generation of advocacy groups, which includes the Methuselah Foundation and SENS Research Foundation have for the past few years been talking far more about changing the approach to aging in the field and curing specific age-related conditions. Talk of extending life spans is far more muted nowadays, but it is still the case that successfully treating the causes of aging will have that outcome. We may well wind up ten or twenty years from now with an incoherent public position on medical research that supports SENS-like research while still being generally opposed to its inevitable outcome, which is to say much healthier, more robust older people who will live longer and are biologically much younger than their years thanks to rejuvenation treatments that actually work. If that comes to pass soon enough then we'll all be living longer as a side-effect of what people actually seem to want, which is not to have Alzheimer's or cancer or heart disease. The only reliable way to not have all these things is to repair the causes of aging: everything else is an expensive waste of time and effort by comparison.
Still, I fear that the incoherent beliefs regarding medical research into aging and the general lack of support for better approaches will drag us through potentially decades of persisting with failed and suboptimal approaches to the effective treatment of age-related disease before there is finally interest in trying something that works. Those decades of wasted time would put paid to the chances of my generation living long enough to benefit from working rejuvenation treatments. Which is something of an incentive to find the key to the lock. No bullet is quite so interesting as the one with your name on it.