Research shows that aging is far from a one-way process and that it is, in fact, plastic and subject to intervention. The aging processes are the foundation of age-related diseases, which include cancer, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and heart disease. Researchers are increasingly realizing that in order to treat these diseases effectively, they must target the aging processes directly.
Various studies have shown that addressing the underlying processes of aging in young and middle-aged animals can help them maintain their health and remain active for longer. The next step is translating these results into clinical practice for humans. This could mean a world where age-related diseases are completely manageable or even no longer exist.
If, or more likely when, this happens, chronological age will no longer be closely linked with biological age.
Be part of the solution, not the problem
Forget mantras like “It is not the years in your life but the life in your years that counts”; these are the words of people who had no choice and were forced to accept aging because the technology was not in place to do something about it. We now live in an era when we are within striking distance of being able to intervene against the aging processes themselves in order to prevent or reverse age-related diseases.
Some people try to argue that just because we could potentially eradicate age-related diseases for good, we should not. In my years as an advocate for geroscience and biomedical gerontology, I have never heard a single argument that justifies sitting back, doing nothing, and letting people die from diseases that we might be able to cure given more scientific progress.
That said, there is no doubt that there will be challenges during the development of the medicines and technologies that could potentially eradicate age-related diseases forever and allow people to live healthier and longer lives.
Therefore, my advice to those objecting to ending age-related diseases is simple; instead of investing energy into objections and arguments to justify doing nothing, we should instead be considering how to meet the challenges that longer lives will bring to society. It is almost inevitable this will happen, so it is better that we all prepare now for these societal changes.
In short, we should prepare for the future now.
Zealotry only gets you so far
Research is a critical part of making the shift to a world where age-related diseases are gone for good, but there is another, often-overlooked component that is equally as important if we want to see these technologies arrive sooner rather than later; that component is advocacy.
Supporters of geroscience often overlook advocacy in favour of the actual research; however, the truth is both research and advocacy need each other. Without research, there can be no technological progress to end age-related diseases, but without effective advocacy, progress will be slower, as new audiences will not be engaged about the possibilities, and investors and supporters will be brought into the field as a slower pace.
In the past, advocacy has fallen to zealotry and passionate individuals for the most part, with few professional organizations delivering sustained advocacy to the wider public. Zealotry only gets you so far, and eventually, people burn out or reach the limit of what is possible without devoting themselves to it full-time; few people have that option due to the need to work a regular job, pay the bills, et cetera.
One reason why traction has been slow in the past is that the movement has lacked full-time advocates who support the scientists working in the labs and bring in vital funding to keep their progress going.
Many labs lack such advocacy efforts, and while groups like the SENS Research Foundation have done an admirable job in the last decade advocating for research, the more professional advocacy there is, the better for us all. Dr. Aubrey de Grey certainly seemed to agree with us when we asked him in his recent AMA on Reddit about the impact that professional advocacy groups like LEAF are having on the field.
Massively! A huge thing that I say all the time is that advocacy absolutely relies upon the diversity of its messengers. Different people listen to different forms of words, different styles of messaging, etc. The more, the better.
We are really glad that our efforts are helping to make Aubrey’s life easier and contributing to the progress and support of Geroscience. One of the main reasons we created LEAF and Lifespan.io was that the field had an unmet need for organized, professional advocacy that zealotry could not fulfil.
However, pushing the pace of progress forwards, reporting on the latest in geroscience news, launching research projects, giving talks, and promoting the field to the public comes at a cost. It is surprising how many people do not realize the real costs of advocacy, which requires time, dedication, and financing to be effective.
How to get involved
So you want to help out and be a part of creating a future where age-related diseases are a thing of the past? Great, because what this community needs are people ready to take action and do so as part of an organized effort.
There are a number of ways you can get involved.
Also as a charitable non-profit, we rely on the support of the community, so if you like what we do, consider giving us a hand to help us keep fighting for the future we all want.
So let’s prepare for a future without age-related disease together!