The idea of living longer, healthier lives curiously doesn't appeal to everyone, but regardless of personal opinion, there are pressing social and economic considerations at hand. If we fail to ameliorate age-related disease and the demands of larger older populations, we could be in serious trouble.
The fact is that slowing or eliminating many aspects of aging would have significant and wide-ranging benefits, not just from a compassionate, humanitarian perspective, but from a pragmatic one too.
We already have more older people than ever before and proportionally there are now more people over 60 too - a figure which will only rise. If a vast number of this group either require, or will require treatment and care, this is going to cost rather a large amount of money. Everything from politics, society and the economy is going to be hit by the rise of the population dome model.
In light of this information, debating the merits of longevity becomes significantly more urgent. This is where the longevity dividend comes in.
The Longevity Dividend
The longevity dividend refers to the sum total of the social and financial rewards that slowing aging down would produce - alongside the health improvements themselves of course.
Dementia alone is already a significant burden on resources.
The inconvenient truth is that the big killers like dementia, cancer and heart disease are massively more common in older individuals. We can expect some success in treating each condition individually, but when they all rise so strongly with age, it makes far more sense to go after aging itself. If underlying causes are addressed, then we could reasonably expect a large reduction in all age-related disease. This would be something to celebrate.
"Between 1970 and 2000 increased longevity yielded a ‘gross' social value of $95 trillion, while the capitalized value of medical expenditures grew by $34 trillion, leaving a net gain of $61 trillion."
Now no one likes spending money, but it will take considerably greater resources and effort than is currently being spent to intervene effectively, and earlier. When you start taking into account statistics and demographics, the pay off starts to look very appealing. Not only would healthcare costs be dramatically reduced, but a healthier population also means a more productive one too. Retirement already poses a problem, and retirement age is going ever up in developed countries. These dilemmas are going to take centre stage in politics across the world, but a concerted effort towards healthy longevity resolves many of these issues.
Healthy longevity may create additional challenges, but they're eclipsed by those we already face. Consider what could happen if we fail to act now; the benefits outweigh the drawbacks
Is the Longevity Dividend too optimistic?
Potentially, as delaying age-related disease could merely postpone it to a later date. Even if this were the case however, delaying it alone would have significant benefits over 'leaving it as it is'. We don't know exactly what solutions will emerge and how effective they might be at this point, so whether the actual period of illness towards the end of one's life is actually reduced or simply postponed remains to be seen.
The population dome scenario is now inevitable, but if we put our heads together and work on the age old problem of, well aging itself, then we will likely reap the rewards later on, and head off a desperate future.
Read more at The Scientist