HISTORY is littered with the corpses of people who claimed to have found the fountain of youth. So caution is warranted with claims of the imminent arrival of drugs to slow ageing (see “Anti-ageing drugs are coming that could keep you healthier for longer”).
But the field of anti-ageing medicine is now a serious one. A decade ago you could go to conferences and hear outlandish predictions about people living to 150 years old or more, often accompanied by rolling eyes from many scientists in the room.
Now the emphasis is no longer on radical life extension, but on ensuring we stay healthier for longer. If this translates into verified drugs, that could presage a medical, economic and social revolution. Keeping at bay the age-related conditions that are now the leading cause of mortality in the developed world will be a humanitarian triumph on a par with sanitation or vaccines.
Of course there are possible downsides, for example if larger numbers of sprightly older people refuse to budge from jobs or homes coveted by younger folk. But such problems are fixable. Wouldn’t we rather that than a world in which the nursing home is the only way out?