Bringing longevity into the public eye is not an easy thing. There exist many misconceptions about aging, like that aging is way too complex to do something about it, or that aging can at best be slowed down.
Therefore, when bringing up the notion of addressing aging, the following things also often need to be discussed.
1. The notion that aging can be partially reversed. Many people (including MDs and scientists) think that aging at best can be slowed down. Recent studies, however, show that aging can be partially reversed, making old animals younger again. Addressing aging is not just about slowing down aging, but about actually reversing it.
2. Give people a framework. Aging is complex, but it helps if people can boil it down to a few simple rules, like the hallmarks of aging (see for example this seminal paper explaining some hallmarks of aging).
3. Tackling aging scares many people. It conjures up things like overpopulation, the emergence of a biological aristocracy that has the means to rejuvenate itself, and so on. However, it’s important to realize that addressing aging is the best way to address dozens of aging-related diseases at the same time, like heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, osteoporosis, and so on. Tackling aging is not about immortality (or amortality), but about healthy aging, living longer in the best possible health, tackling dozens of aging-related diseases simultaneously by addressing their root cause, and more.
During my talks, I often ask the audience the following question: “How much longer do you think life expectancy would be if we could cure all heart disease, the most important cause of death in most countries?” The answer: only about 2.8 years longer. This because if people don’t die anymore of heart disease, they will die a few years later of another aging-related disease. Therefore, it’s paramount to tackle aging itself.
4. Address the “I don’t want to become 150 years old if I have to sit in a wheelchair for 70 years” misconception many people have. When people are asked whether they want to live to 150 years, most people will say “no” because they think that they will suffer from frailty and debilitating diseases for many decades. However, if you ask the question: “Do you want to become 150 years old and still look like a thirty-something?”, many more people would want to become that “old”. Recent research shows that it possible, at least in lab animals, to partially reverse aging.
Addressing aging is the best and most powerful way to substantially reduce the risk of dozens of aging-related diseases, and to substantially improve the health of people. By addressing aging, many diseases are tackled at the root cause, instead of just reducing their symptoms (a bit), or just tweaking at some downstream mechanisms of a disease. Addressing aging has the potential to truly impact and change medicine forever.