Here are two well-written stories about longevity, the Palo Alto Longevity Prize, and my book, 100 Plus. Journalist Joshua Alvarez did a good job interviewing a diverse set of voices. Here are the two links: one and two.
A few observations:
-Some may be surprised to see that the head of Stanford’s “Center on Longevity” says that “I’m largely on the fence about increasing lifespan. I see a real need for improving the quality of our lives and accommodating the years we’ve been given.” That’s sort of depressing, particularly given that so much of the cool tech that will extend our health is being created right at Stanford.
-I’m happy to have been given credit for writing the book that Dr. Walter Bortz, a physician who advocates for a 100 year lifespan, thought would never be written.
Some great research coming out of Stanford University. Here’s their press release, and a few news articles.
The upshot is that “Brain cells called microglia chew up toxic substances and cell debris, calm inflammation and make nerve-cell-nurturing substances. New research shows that keeping them on the job may prevent neurodegeneration.”
“How old do you feel? Think carefully – the answer might help predict how much longer you’ll live. That’s according to British research posing that question to about 6,500 adults. Those who felt younger than their real age lived the longest over the following eight years.”
Americans are living longer than ever before, but gains in longevity are not distributed evenly throughout the country. The gaps, which in some cases span decades, have the potential to either get better or worse depending upon longevity technology adoption patterns, making this the right time to start thinking about the issue.
Read more here.
The United States is a wealthy and successful superpower, so you’d think that when it comes to life expectancy, its citizens would be in the top 10, right? Not even close: the US currently ranks 42 among the world’s countries, a bad sign for long-term economic growth, which is strongly correlated with longevity.
The top spot in longevity rankings goes to Monaco with a life expectancy of 89.57; the bottom country, Chad, has a life expectancy of 49.44 – a striking 40 year difference (the age John Lennon was when he died). The United States, at 79.56, is a full decade behind the top spot when it comes to life expectancy. Why does this matter, other than the fact that death is bad? For one thing, it affects international competitiveness.
Read more here.
Here’s a well written article from Nature about how scientists should be focusing on aging in order to
1) treat a number of diseases and
2) extend healthspan for the many people who are in the ‘older’ demographic
“Harriette Thompson, who ran her first marathon at age 76, set a U.S. record on Sunday for the fastest finish in her 90-and-over age group, finishing the 26.2-mile Rock’n’Roll San Diego Marathon in seven hours, seven minutes and 42 seconds, according to race organizer Dan Cruz.”
A new study published in the Lancet today showed that almost 29% of the world’s population, or 2.1 billion people, are obese. The reason this is such a huge problem is that being overweight increases one’s risk of heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, stroke and cancer. New technologies are being developed that will allow people to live longer, but they can only do so much. Obesity is one of the biggest threats to human longevity.
Here’s a few article about the study:
“Age should no longer determine the appropriate end of a working life,” writes the Economist Magazine. This seems reasonable to me, especially given that people are healthier now than ever before (and thus able to work longer). But as the magazine points out, there will be a divide between older, well-educated, individuals and those who spent their careers in less-skilled areas. Those who are well-educated are more likely to stay in the workforce, while those with fewer skills are more likely to take retirement even if they are still in good health. From the article:
“Some 65% of American men aged 62-74 with a professional degree are in the workforce, compared with 32% of men with only a high-school certificate. In the European Union the pattern is similar.”
How to address this divide? The Economist suggests training programs — also not a bad idea. “Today, many governments are understandably loth to spend money retraining older folk who are likely to retire soon. But if people can work for longer, that investment makes much more sense.” Here’s another link to the longer briefing.
A British television station recently produced a fun film about women (with an average age of 80) who are redefining fashion for their age group. Dressing your age? I think not. Here’s the story.
Today’s news that Google is launching a new company (Calico) to fight aging is epic. Epic. Fighting aging used to be the realm of biologists and doctors, but now that the engineers are getting involved, progress will likely move much faster. This is very good news for those of us who want to see health spans extended for everyone.
Here’s Time’s breaking story.
Here’s my op-ed about it.
Here’s Aubrey de Grey’s op-ed.
A new WHO report notes that women over 50 are now living longer. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the diseases of aging like heart disease, cancer, and diabetes are still big problems. More reason than ever to tackle the problem of aging and the diseases that it brings. Here’s a short NYT story on the WHO report.
A cool idea by the folks over at SENS. Nice of them to include me along amazing people like inventor Dean Kamen whose comment is “Aging is a terrible game. You can’t win and you have to play.” Check it out.
Here’s an interesting survey by the Pew Foundation.
Asked whether they, personally, would choose to undergo medical treatments to slow the aging process and live to be 120 or more, a majority of U.S. adults (56%) say “no.” But roughly two-thirds (68%) think that most other people would. And by similarly large margins, they expect that radically longer life spans would strain the country’s natural resources and be available only to the wealthy.
Of course, most people are probably not considering that technologies that can increase healthspan (rather than longevity per se) will also help us better manage our resources and create wealth.
This Newsweek article contains an excellent conversation about longevity — how we might live longer and what that might mean.
Here’s one of my favorite parts of the NW interview with Aubrey de Grey:
NW: But would we really want to live forever?
De Grey: The reason why we want to live a long time is not to live a long time. It’s that we want to not get Alzheimer’s. Do you want to get Alzheimer’s?
NW: Not particularly.
De Grey: All right. Do you think there’s some age at which you will want to get Alzheimer’s?
NW: Probably not.
De Grey: Exactly. It’s the same for cancer and other diseases. That’s why it’s so important for me to emphasize that any longevity benefits that we get out of this are just a side effect.
It’s well known that there are great disparities in life expectancy around the world and within the US, but how many people know the numbers for their neighborhoods? Today I dug into the data for San Mateo County and found a big divide within just a few miles. In Atheton and Belmont, the current average age of death is 80 years. In East Palo Alto, it is 61.8. Here’s links to the data.
Wealth is of course one factor, but there are many others. Steve Jobs, who was amazingly wealthy, died at 56.