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In the future, growing old could take longer

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How would you like to live to be 120 years old?  If you are like most Americans in a recent survey, you’re not all that interested in living past 100 much less 120 but scientists think that babies born this year are likely to do just that. 

Some respondents (68 percent) in the Pew survey felt strongly that living that much longer was likely to strain natural resources and also predicted that if it were possible it would be something only wealthy people would have access to.

In a study in the journal Health Affairs, researchers weighed the cost savings of living an additional number of years relatively healthy against the benefits of curing diseases such as cancer and found that the economic benefits of delayed aging (about 7.1 trillion over 50 years) compared favorably to curing heart disease or cancer which would have diminishing improvements as other risks were exposed.  What scientists found by virtue of a computer model was that eliminating one disease caused another to crop up.

Doctors believe that delayed aging would compress morbidity, allowing us to live a longer, healthier life and then expiring quickly.  One reason that more research hasn’t been done on extending life spans suggest Dr. Dana Goldman, director of the Schaeffer Center for health Policy and Economics at the University of Southern California is that there is research money for curing diseases but no money for preventing diseases until recently when Google CEO, Larry Page and the former CEO of Genentech, Art Levinson decided to create a company called Calico to explore the concept further.

To some extent, Goldman said, diseases like Alzheimer’s and cancer are reflections of people living long enough that they’re afflicted by diseases.  (See additional story here.)

How about you?  Would you want to live to 120?  What would that look like if five generations of a family were alive at the same time?  How would government programs like Medicare and Social Security have to change to keep from going broke?  If we lived to 120, would we still postpone doing our wills, Power of Attorneys and other legal and financial documents until it was too late?  Would we still have too little money saved up for retirement?  That’s a lot of questions and there are hundreds like them out there, which probably explains some of our reluctance to live that long.

It’s unlikely that you or I will live to 120.  But we have a pretty decent chance of making it to 105 or so.  What are you doing to live as much of that as possible as a healthy, happy human being?

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