What if you could take a drug that would slow down the aging process?
A study reported in today’s issue of the journal Nature explains how researchers at the Mayo Clinic kept mice from aging by purging their bodies of senescent cells, which set off low levels of inflammation that spurs the aging process.
Here is an overview:
“Advanced age is the main risk factor for most chronic diseases and functional deficits in humans, but the fundamental mechanisms that drive ageing remain largely unknown, impeding the development of interventions that might delay or prevent age-related disorders and maximize healthy lifespan. Cellular senescence, which halts the proliferation of damaged or dysfunctional cells, is an important mechanism to constrain the malignant progression of tumour cells1, 2. Senescent cells accumulate in various tissues and organs with ageing3 and have been hypothesized to disrupt tissue structure and function because of the components they secrete4, 5. However, whether senescent cells are causally implicated in age-related dysfunction and whether their removal is beneficial has remained unknown. “
According to Purging Cells in Mice Is Found to Combat Aging Ills by Nicholas Wade,
“The experiment raises the prospect that drugs could be developed that would keep human tissues healthier longer, but it is unclear until further testing is done whether such drugs could eventually help people live longer. The finding indicates that any therapy that rids the body of senescent cells would delay age-related changes.
Senescent cells accumulate in aging tissues, like arthritic knees, cataracts and the plaque that may line elderly arteries. The cells secrete agents that stimulate the immune system and cause low-level inflammation. Until now, there has been no way to tell if the presence of the cells is good, bad or indifferent.”
Click below for a quick look at how the nations of the world have changed in terms of annual income and life expectancy over the past 200 years, as per Hans Rosling on the BBC. This animated graphic certainly underscores how competitive the world has become , expecially since the middle of the 20th century, with all countries vying for the limited resources this planet has to offer.
I’d like to see how Rosling's numbers compare with Ted Fishman’s research on the aging of the world’s population. What will this all mean to our children and grandchildren?
Let’s take a closer look at Ted C. Fishman's new book, Shock of Gray: The Aging of the World's Population and How It Pits Young Against Old, Child Against Parent, Worker Against Boss, Company Against Rival and Nation Against Nation.
(IMPORTANT: At this moment, Google has the entire book up for free, at http://books.google.com/books?id=UZMvbAjwjPIC&printsec=frontcover&dq=Shock+of+Gray&source=bl&ots=qc-foXW9S9&sig=cbltXejIJ8uoVcF1CKWm9LyeF94&hl=en&ei=X2q_TJuKLtGLswbf-421DQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=2&ved=0CBkQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q&f=false )
This book could not have been released at a better time.Think about it -- around the globe, populations are aging, and soon many countries will have more old people than young people. Last week, the French took to the streets in huge protests over the government raising the retirement age. At almost the same time, Britain dismantled government programs across the board, eliminating almost a half million jobs much to the shock of many. We're facing an election in which many are expected to vote in favor of reducing -- or eliminating -- entitlements for the old and the disabled, in favor of (supposedly) making life easier for the middle-aged, middle-income family. (Whether that equation would work or not is yet to be seen but I don't want to go there, at the moment.)
It’s entitlements that are at issue here, and most of those entitlements are pseudo-sacred programs set aside for those no longer in the workforce due to age or disability. People don't want to fund programs for those not contributing to the tax base, only eroding it. For those of you who missed reading excerpts from Shock of Grey published in last Sunday’s New York Times Magazine, here are a few quotes (in italic) that appear to support my belief that the success of this country lies in its ability to attract immigrants, especially young, skilled ones. The world’s population is aging … the number of older people is expanding faster than the number of young. China’s youthful labor force thus helps the country maintain its low-cost economic ecosystem and attract foreign investment that seeks the higher returns a “younger” economy offers, whether or not any particular pot of foreign money goes to employ young people.We decry the fact that US companies – including Microsoft, Apple, HP, Ford, for example – have moved at least some of their manufacturing to younger countries (China and India, for example), dumping their older US workers along the way. Because they must satisfy shareholders, corporations move jobs so they can offer the same service/merchandise for the same price. We lose jobs, in this exchange, but maintain our ability to buy goods cheaply from younger countries. US companies thrive, even if some of their former employees don’t. The US consumer is happy about getting cheap goods, but not happy about a high rate of unemployment and increasing national debt. Around and around we go, shortchanging one segment of society to augment another.
The population of nearly every developed country is expected to shrink before midcentury. Young countries like China will be the countries that in the not-distant future go shopping for younger workers in younger places [like Africa and South America]. Those places will be transformed by satisfying an older China’s needs.
[The US] is subject to the same two big trends — longer lives, smaller families — that are aging much of the world’s populations, but we are not growing old as fast as countries in East Asia and Western Europe. Our median age will climb only 3 years, to 40, by 2050, a rate slowed by the arrival of young immigrants, including millions from Latin America.
China will be older than the United States within a generation, making it the first big national population to age before it joins the ranks of developed countries. One of China’s biggest fears, expressed repeatedly in public pronouncements, is that it will grow old before it grows rich.
Power rests on how willing a country is to neglect its older citizens.
You might want to read that last line again.
According to Fishman, our older, unemployed workers can blame their predicament (that is, the loss of their jobs before they were ready to retire, and the threat of a reduction in their government-supported retirement benefits) on their own opportunity to live longer than their parents and grandparents, thanks to expanded public health programs, literacy and other life-extending practices. They may blame immigrants all they want, but immigrants are not the problem. Living long, is.
Still want to go after immigrants?
If we want to live long lives, enjoy and maintain some level of comfort in life, we better kiss every immigrant we see for coming here and keeping US businesses flush with talent. All those employed green-carded workers pay into Social Security, Medicare and the general fund, while they keep the economy clicking (or slogging) along.
I thank my Albanian physical therapist, the French hospice nurse who took care of my mother in her last days, the Thai restaurant owner in our town, my friend’s Moldovan beautician, my nephew’s Mexican-engineer wife, a Russian doctor I know and all the Jamaican migrant workers who keep our local orchards and fields in production. Without them, we’re screwed. Our own children either don’t have the talent or the inclination to take on some of these jobs, so thank goodness there are others who do.
MOST IMPORTANTLY, if young people from young countries aren’t willing to come here to work and pay into entitlement funds, our businesses will fail. Just ask IBM, HP and Microsoft. They’ve already figured out that they must move overseas to make it easier to recruit top talent in China, India and Mexico. When they open plants in China, they also get a big break on how much they pay toward employee benefits. So it's a win/win solution for business, a lose/lose solution for US elders and families.
Remember: If more of our big companies fail, not only will our senior citizens lose entitlements, but more of OUR young people will leave to find opportunities elsewhere.
It's hard enough to be old and poor, but imagine losing your children and grandchildren on top of that? My daughter-in-law's parents did, and they're heartbroken. I certainly sympathize.
Our kids haven't left (yet) but we know a handful of young people who have already gone to China, Japan, Argentina and other places, to work for big US companies with offshore facilities.
Want to keep your kids and grandkids in this country? Then support immigration reform that makes it easier for talented young people from other lands to come here to live and work.
If they come here, our kids are less likely to have to go there.
Otherwise, you may find yourself looking for Waldo thousands of miles away, just like part of our family does:
It’s interesting how phenomena and the observation of seemingly disparate trends seem to converge, pushing along social and even political forces ahead of the curve. Sometimes the catalyst for change is a book. The New York Times will excerpt Ted C. Fishman’s important work, Shock of Gray: The Aging of the World’s Population and How It Pits Young Against Old, Child Against Parent, Worker Against Boss, Company Against Rival and Nation Against Nation, in tomorrow’s NYT Magazine. (They published it online Thursday.)
Don’t miss this story. If you’re old or want to get old, or if you have children or grandchildren, I predict this book will be to them what Future Shock, Silent Spring, Invisible Man, Roots or The Feminine Mystique was to us. As Populations Age, a Chance for Younger NationsBy TED C. FISHMANPublished: October 14, 2010YOU MAY KNOW that the world’s population is aging — that the number of older people is expanding faster than the number of young — but you probably don’t realize how fast this is happening. Right now, the world is evenly divided between those under 28 and those over 28. By midcentury, the median age will have risen to 40. Demographers also use another measure, in addition to median age, to determine whether populations are aging: “elder share.” If the share, or proportion, of people over 60 (or sometimes 65) is growing, the population is aging. By that yardstick too, the world is quickly becoming older. Pick any age cohort above the median age of 28 and you’ll find its share of the global population rising faster than that of any segment below the median. By 2018, 65-year-olds, for example, will outnumber those under 5 — a historic first. In 2050, developed countries are on track to have half as many people under 15 as they do over 60. In short, the age mix of the world is turning upside down and at unprecedented rates. Complete story at: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/17/magazine/17Aging-t.html?hpw
Speaking of other blogs, here’s something from today’s Time Goes By. If you haven’t already found this blog, you should. It’s a gem, with a new, thought-provoking story or discussion every day of the week.
No Nursing Home For Me!
At dinner through the Mediterranean aboard a Princess cruise ship, an elderly lady sat alone along the rail of the grand stairway in the main dining room. The staff, ship's officers, waiters, busboys, etc., all seemed very familiar with her. When a waiter was asked who she was, he said he knew only that she had been on board for the last four cruises, back to back.
Wanting to know more, a fellow passenger asked her one evening if this was true. “Yes,” she replied and without a pause added, “It’s cheaper than a nursing home.”The average cost for a nursing home, she explained, is $200 a day. With a long-term cruise discount and a senior discount, the price of a Princess Cruise is $135 per day. That leaves $65 a day for:
Anyone want to join me at the dock in New York?
- Gratuities, which will only be $10 per day.
- I will have as many as 10 meals a day if I can waddle to the restaurant, or I can have room service (which means I can have breakfast in bed every day of the week).
- Princess has as many as three swimming pools, a workout room, free washers and dryers, and shows every night.
- There are free toothpaste and razors, and free soap and shampoo.
- They will even treat you like a customer, not a patient. An extra $5 worth of tips will have the entire staff scrambling to help you.
- I get to meet new people every seven or 14 days.
- TV broken? Light bulb need changing? Need to have the mattress replaced? No problem! They fix everything and apologize for your inconvenience.
- Clean sheets and towels every day, and you don’t even have to ask for them.
- If you fall in the nursing home and break a hip you are on Medicare; if you fall and break hip on the Princess ship they will upgrade you to a suite for the rest of your life.
- And here's the best. If I want to see South America, the Panama Canal, Tahiti, Australia, New Zealand, Asia or you name it, Princess will have a ship ready to go.
- And don’t forget: when you die, they just dump you over the side at no charge.
There are two interesting things I’ve learned about aging in the last few days:
1. You can use it as an excuse for anything, as in, “you can’t expect me to run that fast, after all I am 65,” and “sorry I forgot your birthday, but sometimes dates are just too much for my 65-year-old brain to handle."
2. On the other hand, if you look at the process of aging as ripening, it doesn’t seem so bad. I'm not getting older, just riper!
I look forward to being sweet and juicy, but am not quite ready to be picked, thank you very much.
Some of us have noted that more and more seniors and not-so-seniors are “early adapters,” turning to the Internet for support and social interaction. Now Harvard and others are studying the phenomenon.
Read all about it in the Technology section of today’s New York Times:
Online, ‘a Reason to Keep on Going’
Like many older people, Paula Rice of Island City, Ky., has grown isolated in recent years. Her four grown children live in other states, her two marriages ended in divorce, and her friends are scattered. Most days, she does not see another person.
But Ms. Rice, 73, is far from lonely. Housebound after suffering a heart attack two years ago, she began visiting the social networking sites Eons.com, an online community for aging baby boomers, and PoliceLink.com (she is a former police dispatcher). Now she spends up to 14 hours a day in online conversations.
“I was dying of boredom,” she said. “Eons, all by its lonesome, gave me a reason to keep on going.”
That more and more people in Ms. Rice’s generation are joining networks like Eons, Facebook and MySpace is hardly news. Among older people who went online last year, the number visiting social networks grew almost twice as fast as the overall rate of Internet use among that group, according to the media measurement company comScore. But now researchers who focus on aging are studying the phenomenon to see whether the networks can provide some of the benefits of a group of friends, while being much easier to assemble and maintain.
When I was growing up, I truly believed Kansas was the center of the universe. In our house, the word ‘home’ meant Kansas. More specifically, Wichita.
My parents were from there and, to hear them tell it, Wichita was an idyllic place to grow up. Wichita people were honest, friendly and levelheaded, unlike so many around us in New Jersey, said my folks. The schools were far superior, just ask some of my aunts! Even the corn was better.
Almost every summer, my dad packed us all in our un-air-conditioned Nash, and we headed west for 1700 miles of pure bliss. We looked forward to this trip all year. Just my mom and dad, my brother, the dog, sometimes my grandmother and cousin, me, a big metal cooler and couple of hundred pounds of luggage. My brother and I packed our little bags with coloring books, crayons and other things we could torment one another with. The dog just hung out the window.
Once we got there, we spent a few weeks going from one relative’s house to another, eating in backyards, oohing and aahing over everyone’s gardens and the height of their children. Our aunts and uncles took us to the zoo and the park along the river. We got to eat Nu-Ways, drink Waco (later known as Dr. Pepper) and eat Steffen’s ice cream, right out of the vats because one of our uncles was a milkman. We had lots of kids to play with, and that was great.
(Click Read More to continue)
The person thought to be the world's oldest blogger, Maria Amelia Lopez, died May 20 in Spain. According to the Associated Press, Lopez, who was 97, loved to communicate with people from around the world. through her blog.
"It took 20 years off my life," Lopez wrote. "My bloggers are the joy of my life. I did not know there was so much goodness in the world."
Her blog is available at http://amis95.blogspot.com/ .
Don't miss "At Card Table, Clues to a Lucid Old Age"in today's New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/22/health/research/22brain.html?_r=1&hp
The story reveals new information from research on 90-somethings, especially those who have no signs of dementia. Of course, we'll all be in that pool, right?
Two factors keep showing up as important, if you want to keep those brain cells accessible. One is regular social interaction with friends or family, and the other is the use of grey matter. Wonder if today's young seniors, like us, will benefit from the use of the Internet, which provides both mental stimulation and a virtual social life? Would make an interesting doctoral dissertation, but the candidate might have to wait 20-30 years for the degree.