Newspaper headlines yesterday heralded the development of a drug which may enable us to live to 150 years of age, but really is this what anyone wants?
Drug companies are spending billions of dollars to develop drugs and therapies which help the body repair itself, and there is the possibility that such drugs will be available in as little as five to ten years time. In addition, new stem cell therapies are being developed which can help combat some of the diseases to which we become more prone as we age. Suddenly living to the ripe old age of 150 is a distinct possibility.
How awful. Personally, I can think of nothing worse, but this is of course, my opinion. I am not quite 40 years of age, am fit and healthy and enjoying life as it is. I fear getting old, not becoming older, but being too old to manage everyday tasks for myself, of being a drain on my family and friends and of losing the person that I am. I don’t think these feelings are any different to anyone my age who gives getting older a second thought, although some don’t. Am I proud of these thoughts? Not particularly. Will I feel differently as I get older? More than likely but will this make we want to live until 150? I don’t think so.
I understand the importance of scientific advancement to deal with ailments and diseases, thus improving our health and standard of living. But, I am acutely aware that there is a danger that we can take things too far. We are born, we live our lives and then we die to make way for the next generation which will, undoubtedly, do the same. This is the way it has been for centuries and, to an extent, it works. So why change it?
For some, the thought of living to a ripe old age is what motivates them. Getting older is a challenge to be undertaken with all the help and assistance medicine and science can provide. But is there a down side to living to the ripe old age of 150?
Firstly, consider the economic factor. With Australia and the rest of the developed world already struggling to cope with an ageing population, the added burden of funding more people further into old age will simply be too much for any economy to bear. Of course, there is the argument that if people are living longer, and therefore assumed to be living a healthier life, then they can work for longer and fund a greater portion of their latter years themselves. But what effect does this have on the employment prospects of younger Australians as they leave school and university?
Then there are the health and social issues. While some diseases associated with ageing can be combated through the development and administration of these new drugs expected to hit the market, what about those diseases which we are already struggling to tackle? Diseases such as dementia would need to be all but eradicated or the social and economic impact would be catastrophic. Not to mention huge personal sadness felt by indivuals.
So, if such drugs become available, and are anywhere near affordable, will you be queuing up to give them a go? Why not let us know your thoughts below? Don’t hold me a place in line, but I wish you a happy, healthy and incredibly long life.