A Longer, Better Life

Sara Davidson of the New York Times talks with Lenny GUARENTE and Robert N. BUTLER about how the body ages and the research on trying to extend our healthy life span.  Interesting read.  Here are a few questions:

But how long would the gene work? Maybe it only operates temporarily?

GUARENTE: We can gauge this by asking what happens in rodents on a calorie-restricted diet, which mimics food scarcity and activates the SIR2 gene. Do they live forever? No. They live up to 50 percent longer. So in a perfect world, one would hope that we could live 50 percent longer than the current expected life span.

In our lifetimes, could this happen?

GUARENTE: I think one can expect perhaps another decade of robust health.

ROBERT BUTLER: A lot of it comes down to our willingness in this country to make an investment in the biology of aging. Historically, we’ve devoted our energies and money to studying one disease at a time. At the same time, we have neglected targeting the underlying risk factor of aging.

What kind of society will we have if everybody is living to 100, and the whole culture skews older?

BUTLER: You could have asked that same question in 1900, when the average life expectancy was 47. Someone might have said, what are we going to do when we have all these 55- and 60-year-olds around? Society adjusts. People think we can’t afford older people because of Social Security and Medicare. But there’s a growing body of knowledge by hard-nosed economists of all ideological persuasions — University of Chicago, Yale, Harvard, the RAND Corporation — that as societies become more long-living and healthier, that actually creates greater wealth.

Full article:  New York Times

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