A Brief Letter to the Long Retired

Life isn't fair, but you've probably figured that out by now. Your body is corroding, and there's nothing great about that. I guess I'm not telling you anything you don't know here.

So try this on for size: in among all of the modern wonders of medicine, many of which you have become familiar with, some few scientists are working on ways to control the causes of aging and thus put a halt to all age-related disease.

"All?" you might well ask. Well, aging is just another medical condition, so why not? We didn't put up with tuberculosis once we could do something about it. Coughing up your lungs just because everyone else up until that point did as much? That would have been silly.

The good news then is that people are working to make the world a better place. The march of medicine continues. The bad news is that control of aging isn't going to happen soon enough for today's oldest, not even in the best of worlds. There is just too much to do, too little money, and too few people working on it.

Wherever there is progress, someone is the last to miss out. Life isn't fair, as you know. But control over aging could happen in time for the children and grandchildren of today's oldest - if there were more funding and more workers.

You could be a curmudgeon and say "to hell with them, let them take their chances on suffering everything I have." I've known some folk who dug themselves into that mindset; pain is an unpleasant companion.

There are more gracious legacies to leave behind, such as doing something to make the world a lasting better place. So why not fund the daylights out of those scientists working on aging? There is a lot to be said for helping to ensure that your children and grandchildren won't have to suffer your pains and indignities.

The short truth of it is that old age is a blessing, but marred by the unwanted failures of the the flesh. Being old used to be a lot worse than it is today, and one day it will be a lot better than it is now. That is all down to the march of medicine, and a few brave souls deciding to improve the world for their descendants.

Will control over the causes of aging arrive in time for your children and grandchildren? That's a question only you can answer. Fund the daylights out of those scientists, I say. You can find most of them at the SENS Research Foundation, and here's a link were you inclined to think about donating:



It would be one thing to call on the elderly to pitch in if those young enough to benefit were trying their hardest to create this technology, but here you're essentially calling on them to altruistically help people who won't lift a finger to help themselves.

Posted by: José at August 18th, 2014 5:51 PM

@José: I think that's true for any act of charity involving medicine: you will be helping a lot of free riders, people who will do nothing to bring about - or worse, even actively oppose - the therapies that will benefit them. Feeling bad about that is just one of those unhelpful human reactions that we all have to get over. Life isn't fair, but that's not a good reason not to help.

Posted by: Reason at August 18th, 2014 7:14 PM

For the late aged, we need to make them consider cryonics, to grow that industry. This would increase the odds for all who choose this route. People with incurable diseases such as cancer might be 30 years of age. The greatest option for the near to death is cryonics, including those of advanced age. There is that option and it also needs to be supported.

Posted by: Jersey Jones at August 18th, 2014 7:30 PM

Ignorance CAN be bliss.

People in late age not only suffer physically they also suffer anxiety and depression. Outreach that spotlights their demise and the hope they don't have could intesify mental health issues. It's probably best to let them ride into the sunset like they prepared to do their entire lives.

I would like this letter if it targeted the middle-aged and below. From said prospective they have seen the demise of their parents and/or grandparents and have the most to gain by contributing.

Posted by: johnathan at August 18th, 2014 9:06 PM

To clearify further:

I don't think this letter is "bad" as the late age perspective (like all perspectives) is worth exploring. We just need to be aware of how our goodwill and hope could hurt those with no chance.

Posted by: johnathan at August 18th, 2014 9:19 PM

From what I can tell predictions on when anti again research and medicine will get to a point where it can actually start adding solid years to peoples life's ranges from 15 years at the absolute minimum to 30 years at the most (of course this is speaking generally - there are scientists that doubt this stuff could become a reality until 100 years) but let's remain optimistic eh?

What this means is that people in middle age, let's say 45-60 do stand a very real chance benefiting from future therapies. People of late age (60-80) will be hoping that these therapies become a reality in a time frame closer to the minimum prediction.

The vast majority of the 80 plus demographic of course have no hope barring some kind of miracle like them living to 95-110 or Jesus returning and offering everybody immortality.

What I am saying is that for most age ranges there still does exist a very viable possibility of benefiting from future rejuvenation technologies, I think this is just nice to remember.

Of course it is a question of when rather than if, and ultimately that is the real goal - creating these medicines and technologies in the shortest time frame possible.

Posted by: Jake at August 19th, 2014 8:04 AM

I wonder if there is any way for people in Britain to donate which doesn't involve paypal...

Posted by: Mark at August 19th, 2014 1:56 PM

@Mark: There is. Send an email to the Foundation and they'll fill you in. The EU charitable donation situation is different for each country and only recently finalized. The information should be up there at some point in the near future.

Posted by: Reason at August 19th, 2014 3:24 PM

It really worries me that you keep quoting TB in your marketing drive as if it's something that is cured and it's no longer a threat to anyone.

569 people died of TB in the united states in 2010.

The US still exhibits low levels of drug resistant TB but internationally this is increasing at an alarming rate. 25.3% in 1993 to 86.1% in 2012.

Figures taken from:

I previously thought that SENS was attempting to solve the problem of aging through solid scientific method but when I see you repeatedly using false medical statements like this as fund raising propaganda, I seriously question how solid your science actually is.

Posted by: Chris Wedgwood at August 25th, 2014 2:30 PM

@Chris Wedgewood: I think tuberculosis is a good example of the sort of medical control I'm talking about for the first generation of effective rejuvenation treatments. When I talk about it I am considering its present status as threat in comparison to the status in, say, circa 1700 or 1800. I think there can be no doubt that it is under control in that comparison, just as it is something that we cannot be complacent about. That is where aging will be: a threat we cannot be complacent about, especially for those at the vanguard of new records in old age, pushing into the unknown of what happens to extremely long lived individuals, but one that is unarguably under control in comparison to the years in which it killed most people.

Posted by: Reason at August 25th, 2014 4:32 PM

No it is a very bad example! TB is only under control as long as the anitbiotics used to control it continue to work.

Unfortunately it is a growing problem that the bugs are now gaining resistance. When that happens, if there is no new advance to prevent it, then the situation will be every bit as bad as it was before, probably much worse since we all live in congested cities now where these things can be spread more easily between people.

Antibiotic resistance is a massive problem and it's not just for TB either. It is a catastrophe waiting to happen and resources should be put into this with urgency. You won't be living to a ripe old age even if SENS does find a cure for aging if these old enemies are allowed to become strong again!

Why not use Smallpox as an example? That was cured by medicine, but TB was not.
It's your lack of understanding of the difference that is the real problem. It just makes it sound like a funding drive with no substance.

Posted by: Chris Wedgwood at August 31st, 2014 7:38 PM

Post a comment; thoughtful, considered opinions are valued. Comments incorporating ad hominem attacks, advertising, and other forms of inappropriate behavior are likely to be deleted.

Note that there is a comment feed for those who like to keep up with conversations.