Bringing longevity into the public eye is not an easy thing. There are many misconceptions about aging, like that aging is way too complex to do something about it, or that aging at best can just be slowed down.
So how improve the public debate about aging, and to address common misconceptions?
How to convince people to treat aging itself
When bringing up the importance of addressing aging the following issues would need to be explained:
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 (learn more about reversing aging here).
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. These “hallmarks of aging” are some important and main causes for aging; and these causes also lead to aging-related diseases such as heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease and many other aging-related diseases.
Learn more about the hallmarks of aging here.
3. Tackling aging scares people
“Curing aging” conjures up scary thoughts in a lot of people, 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’ll still be old and frail” misconception
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.
This is the “I don’t want to become 150 years old if I have to sit in a wheelchair for 70 years” misconception.
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.
Generally, 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.