Longevity? No thank you!

The oldest recorded person, Frenchwoman Jeanne Calment, died in 1997 aged 122 years and 5 months. Since then no one has equalled or surpassed her. (Yet. Some very rich people are working on it for some reason)

A study conducted by Tom Kirkwood at Newcastle University’s Institute for Ageing in the UK, published in Science and based on demographic records from Italy, shows that the inexorable rise in death rate with age appears to reach a plateau around 105 and remain level thereafter. There is a debate about the existence of such “mortality plateaus”, but ageing looks overwhelmingly likely to be driven by the build-up of damage in cells and organs, which is, one presumes, fairly relentless.

However, everything we are learning about the biology of ageing makes it implausible that the body has some inbuilt program that acts specifically to bring life to a close at a set age, so if we can find better ways to combat the build-up of damage and enhance our potential for survival, then there is every reason to expect Calment’s record to be overtaken.(Edited version of an article in New Scientist, July 7,2018)

This assumes that everyone wants to live to over 105, or even 100! Imagine, you have lost all your friends, you are dependent on nurses and doctors to keep you going, your memory is not what it used to be, your teeth, hair and eyesight probably gone! In other words the quality of life is pretty awful. No, no, no – bump me off long before then. There are too many people in the world in any case. Don’t burden the young more than they are burdened already. No to ever longer lives!

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