As noted at Fight Aging!, the Longevity Dividend initiative of scientists and advocates S. Jay Olshansky, Daniel Perry, Richard A. Miller, and Robert N. Butler has moved into its next stage: a meeting of minds in Washington and a call for endorsements of the Longevity Dividend position.
We suggest that even a relatively small deceleration in the rate of aging would yield the equivalent of simultaneous major breakthroughs involving every major fatal and non-fatal disease and disorder associated with aging. As a way to follow through with our recommendation, we are planning an event on Capitol Hill on September 12, 2006. At this event there will be U.S. Senators from both sides of the aisle, Nobel Laureates, representatives of national and international health organizations, and scientists – all of whom will be advocating an investment in the pursuit of the Longevity Dividend.
Methuselah Foundation chairman Aubrey de Grey offers these words of encouragement:
I’m very strongly in support of the Longevity Dividend initiative. I’m especially pleased that, in the consensus document that the original authors are now circulating for expert endorsements, there is no repetition of the dismissal of SENS that appeared in the original paper in The Scientist. Another important improvement is the diminished emphasis on the idea that compression of morbidity is a plausible consequence of progress in gerontology research, a stance that I believe is on balance not supported at all by available data. All in all this initiative is as big-tent as can be. If anyone can pull this off, these people can.
Researchers who aim at a compression of morbidity are seeking to reduce or even eliminate late life frailty, disease and incapacity – but with no expectation of extending healthy life span. The framing principles of the reliability theory of aging and longevity, amongst other work, would seem to suggest that this is impossible – that any successful efforts to alleviate age-related suffering will also extend healthy life span.
In this viewpoint, all manifestations of aging – disease, frailty, degeneration and death – are manifestations of accumulated damage. The best way to prevent age-related degeneration is to prevent or repair that damage, but this will also extend healthy life span. You can’t have one without the other – and a good thing too!