Washington, DC - Is old age a disease? Dan Weber, president of the Association of Mature American Citizens [AMAC], says a significant amount of scientific research indicates that aging is, indeed, a disease. "More important there are many who believe it is a disease with a cure."
Weber cites the work of Dr. Aubrey de Grey, a well-known biomedical gerontologist. His focus is on extending life spans by intervening at the cellular level, repairing damaged cells and in turn extending life.
Some call de Grey a "mad scientist" but there is lots of independent study being conducted by those in the scientific mainstream to indicate that he is on the right track.
Most recently, researchers at the Universities of Exeter and Brighton in the U.K. released the results of a study that showed aging cells can be repaired. They used naturally occurring chemicals to treat aging human cells with remarkable results.
"When I saw some of the cells in the culture dish rejuvenating I couldn't believe it. These old cells were looking like young cells. It was like magic. I repeated the experiments several times and in each case, the cells rejuvenated. I am very excited by the implications and potential for this research," according to Exeter's Dr. Eva Latorre, one the principal authors of the research report.
Meanwhile, notes Weber, the New York Times reports that the study of the human aging process has evolved to the point where the focus is now on what are
"It used to be that a person who reached the ripe old age of 100 was a rarity. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, however, recently reported that the number of Americans over the age of 100 has grown by 44% since the year 2000. The U.S. today is home to more than 72,000 centenarians," says the AMAC chief.
But the New England Centenarian Study at Boston University, a leading medical investigative group concentrating on how we grow old, believes healthy aging is all in the genes, particularly the genes of the very, very old. The Study says on its Web site "the genetic influence becomes greater and greater with older and older ages, especially beyond 103 years of age."
Whether the cellular approach or the genetic approach is ultimately successful in increasing the life span of more people in the future, Weber points out that living an extra long life can be fraught with financial danger. It will require a whole new way of thinking about retirement. Modern medicine has already extended longevity and that has resulted in fewer of us being able to retire. Many more people these days have given up on the notion of full retirement at the traditional age of 65. We stay in our jobs longer than we might like or we find ways of supplementing our incomes.
But for many elderly Americans, finding work to supplement their incomes is not an option. Social Security is what puts food on their tables. It's their principal source of income, meager as it might be, and they would face cruel hardships if their monthly checks were cut. For them, the fact that Social Security faces major fiscal challenges in the coming years is a scary prospect.
"We need to focus, as a nation, on how the less fortunate of us will cope in the brave new world of centenarians and supercentenarians. How will they cope with their everyday lives? For them, it is not a benefit-it is a necessity and it is imperative that our lawmakers find and enact the fixes that will keep Social Security viable for the long term. For our part, AMAC remains relentless in its pursuit of solutions in our ongoing meetings with Congressional leaders. We've vowed never to give up and we won't," says Weber.