Longevity but at what price?

  • Published: 30 April 2015,
  • The Say Team

Longevity but at what price?


While perusing the Sunday papers I came across an article in the Sunday Telegraph that inspired me to put pen to paper. An anti-ageing expert, Dr Alex Zhavoronkov, Director of the UK–based Biogerontology Research Foundation, says that we all have the capacity to live to 150 years old!

My immediate reaction was, are you serious? 150? Who would want to live that long…but with good health and wealth, why shouldn’t we? Zhavoronkov’s theory is that by following the advances in biomedical research, we can now vaccinate against what were once killer illnesses; antibiotics have increased our life expectancy (although there is a debate there about time running out to find new ones). Humans also have better access to better food and shelter, certainly in the Western world.

But, and this is a big but, simple maths could unravel all of this. Why? For those who exist on a state pension, access to some healthcare is unaffordable (dentistry for instance), food is a huge expense and fuel poverty is a very real concern. If we cannot afford to eat properly and heat our homes as we get older, could we really expect to live to 150?

Dr Zhavonronkov thinks that we have a mental barrier to ageing and expect to live as long as the national average, or follow our family history. At 39 I have a granddad who is 99, and soon to be 100, he is living in a care home and has all his needs catered for. We think he could go on to at least 106…so maybe 150 isn’t all that crazy after all. Dr Aubrey De Grey is a keen supporter of the the ultra-ageing theory and back in 2011 he said: ‘I’d say we have a 50/50 chance of bringing ageing under what I’d call a decisive level of medical control within the next 25 years or so.”

Now the thought that I might live another 110 years is quite a daunting prospect. Given the level of technological advances, can we conceive what life will be like? Will there be a state pension that pays out for 70 years? I doubt it. How long will we need to work to support an extended old age? Will we be cared for by robots to save money? Quite possibly. Will we only need to eat a pill a day that delivers all the nutrients we need? I hope not!

I’m also thinking about the news stories we might see (I doubt newspapers will exist in 100 years), “Average age for retirement is now 90!” “Old age job blockers preventing the young from entering employment market.” Or “We have now eradicated cancer.”  Now that’s a thought!

Longevity sounds great at first but I’m happy to go along with the crowd on this one and base my future life span on the national average, or a bit longer, like my granddad but only if I have my health!

Click on this video from Biogerontology Research Foundation explaining what ageing is.

– Written by Louise B.

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