As average ages of death continue to rise in most developed countries, the idea that humans may one day live extraordinarily extended lives is no longer fantastic. Scarcely a day goes by without a report on the latest studies that contribute to our overall understanding of the aging process and how we might slow it down. At the same time, medical interventions to delay death, such as organ transplants, controlling the symptoms of aging and treatments for the diseases of old age, continue to improve.
Dietary restriction has long been known to increase longevity in other species, and a society for people who wish to practise this method of attempting to live longer and healthier lives has existed since 1993. For those who want to increase their life spans more easily, research into longevity drugs continues. Resveratrol, found in red grape skin, peanuts and berries, has been studied extensively and its usefulness in combating heart disease, Alzheimer’s and diabetes is popularly touted. A recent exciting discovery was extract of the herb golden root (Rhodiola rosea), which increases the lifespan of fruit flies by 24 per cent.
While many of us try to live longer by eating healthily, exercising and keeping harmful activities like smoking and drinking to a minimum, longevity is mostly dictated by our genes. Dorothy Peel, who turned 111 on 28th September 2013, smoked 20 cigarettes a day until she was 103 and regularly drank a pint of sherry for breakfast, and Jeanne Calment, who died at the greatest recorded age of any human, 122, ate two pounds of chocolate a week until her doctor persuaded her to give up when she was 119. If the lifestyles of these women are anything to go by, it may be that sheer willpower and zest for life also have a large role to play.
For a fictional account of what living longer may entail in the future, see my story, what Poppa Pills Did For Me, published this week on Metro Moms website.