Our Ageing Population Is A Problem, But Can Technology Fix It?
Imagine if one day you could pop a pill and slow down the ageing process so that you felt 30 at 50, and 40 at 70.
It seems like a dream, but we are actually closer to such a situation than you might think. Over the last five years or so, there’s been a revolution in the medical longevity field. Researchers are getting a much better sense of the biological mechanisms that determine the rate at which we age. And now there are even pills on the market shown to extend lifespan and healthspan in lab animals.
Whether technology will change things dramatically remains to be seen. But if humanity can achieve real-world life extensions and improvements in healthspan seen in the lab, the savings could be tremendous.
Government Spending On Elder Care
If nothing is done about the ageing process and population growth continues to stall, more of society’s resources, including those of the government, will go towards looking after older people. Government spending on elder care is likely to balloon in the coming years, thanks to increased payments. The value of a carers pension, Centrelink says, is rising. As a proportion of the economy, payments will increase between now and 2050, if current trends remain.
New Anti-ageing Technologies
It’s widely assumed that nothing can be done about ageing and that it’s a natural process that everyone is subjected to. However, that may not be true. There are already NAD boosters and senolytics – compounds that bust dysfunctional old cells – on the market right now, and more are coming along every year. NMN, NR, quercetin and fisetin are all available as supplements from online vendors right now.
We’re also seeing laboratory scientists look for additional compounds in nature that might help to preserve human health. For instance, there are many herbs and spices shown to have health-promoting effects which could boost longevity. Witherins in ashwagandha behave similarly to compounds in anti-aging drugs, like metformin and rapamycin, for instance. And rosmarinic acid in rosemary may be one of the reasons why Italians in certain Sardinian villages live so long.
Is There Any Proof?
People have been searching for the fountain of youth for many thousands of years and always come up short. Thus, the idea that science might actually get a grip on the ageing problem seems culturally far-fetched.
However, it’s always wise to look at the evidence and see what it says. We already know that we can extend healthspan and lifespan in laboratory animals, so it doesn’t seem too remote a possibility that the same could be done in humans.
We also know that when people live a certain way, they live longer anyway. For instance, not smoking and being a healthy weight can give you around seven years of extra life.
The trick is to condense all that knowledge into pills and treatments that people can receive. And it looks like we’re not all that far off from the day when that will become possible. In fact, it might already be here.