The Healthspan Campaign is more or less the voice of the Longevity Dividend viewpoint of the next few decades of aging research and its applications in clinical medicine. This alliance of advocates and researchers favor large increases in government funding of aging science through the National Institute on Aging and a consequent series of incremental increases in healthy life span. In this vision for tomorrow these increases would be driven by exactly the same sort of mainstream research into aging that has dominated for the past decade or two. By this I mean the standard issue drug discovery process, manipulating metabolism to modestly slow the pace of aging, investigation of the mechanisms of calorie restriction, forcing reversal of epigenetic changes in aging to restore stem cell populations to greater activity, and so forth. There is a little overlap between the Longevity Dividend and the much more ambitious rejuvenation research of SENS, but only a little - just a few areas in which there is common interest.
In the Longevity Dividend view, achieving an additional seven years of healthy life expectancy is an ambitious goal that will require billions in funding and two decades to achieve. I think this is probably about right if the field continues on the present path that characterizes mainstream aging research. Altering metabolism and epigenetic patterns is a very challenging, very expensive way to make slow progress towards treatments that will be of little use for people who are already old. What benefit in slowing down aging when you are already nearly aged to death? Further, the intersection of metabolism and aging is very poorly understood and enormously complex: the whole point of SENS and any similar repair-based approach to aging is that we can bypass most of that complexity by focusing on the known differences between old and young tissue. Just fix the damage, don't worry about exactly how it progresses in detail. Unfortunately the SENS view is not yet as popular in the research community as it deserves to be.
The Healthspan Campaign puts out a regular newsletter and is working on an long term advocacy campaign leading towards the end goal of much greater public funding and support among members of related institutional research organizations. To that end there is a fair amount of effort taking place to raising awareness among the public, and this tends to raise the water for all boats, whether the Longevity Dividend or initiatives like SENS with better prospects for producing meaningful results in our lifetimes. It is very important to have this outreach, in which researchers stand up and sign their names to the idea that we can do something about degenerative aging and thereby increase healthy life spans. Most of the public are either unaware of the potential, or reflexively opposed to longevity research because they think, wrongly, that it would mean being older for longer rather than younger for longer. So at this point every well-forged publicity effort such as this one below moves the needle for all initiatives:
The Healthspan Imperative looks at our country's next great priority: solving the challenges brought about by the aging of the American population. Narrated by Emmy Award-winning television show host and bestselling author Martha Stewart, it features exclusive interviews from leading scientists and aging research experts.
For more than a century, the human race has enjoyed an unprecedented increase in its lifespan. Through advances in science and technology, many can expect to live life well into their 80s, 90s and beyond. But this increase in longevity has not come without consequences. With each passing year, the percentage of people in the United States - and much of the world - over age 65 increases. This "Silver Tsunami" is expected to bring a flood of chronic disease and disabilities of aging. A flood which could overwhelm the health care systems of many nations.
It's an issue that has come to the forefront of our national consciousness and a challenge that has been undertaken by some of the world's best scientists, doctors and professionals. The goal: Increase not just our lifespan but our healthspan, the length of time we spend free of the costly and harmful conditions of old age.
The Healthspan Imperative explores the challenges created by the longevity revolution. And the potential of aging research to turn back the clock. Not to make us older for a longer time, but so that we might enjoy more years of healthy, vigorous life. A clear call to action on an issue that affects everyone, The Healthspan Imperative will change the conversation on how we view aging.