Sociology of Aging

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Jordan Hand
AGER 4550

Prompt 3
The Issues of Longevity
While we may struggle to find the fountain of youth, the fountain of extended old age seems to be right around the corner. New possibilities of extended longevity have risen much debate and question considering the vast amount of positive and negative effects it could have.

Though we are able to use science to see how we age, it is still a mystery as to why. Scientist approach this question very simply, is aging an effect of our environment? Or do we come out of the womb with internal biological processes that age us? Though we can not answer the question “why” as a whole, we do have many theories and ideas that explain some aspects of the aging process. One is the wear-and-tear theory, which is exactly what it sounds like. The use and abuse of anything causes damage, though most of the time this damage is not noticeable, we are constantly inflicting harm upon ourselves, sun exposure, poor diet, bad posture, etc. Luckily the body is made up of millions of cells which immediately begin to repair the damage, and though most of the time our bodies are able to repair the injuries, the quality continuously goes down until we are incapable of rebuilding. Then there is the idea that aging is simply inevitable, scientifically our body is required to work in a specific way in order to be functional, yet these required functions may also bring us harm. The problem seems to lie in the design, an example given in Moody’s Aging: Concepts and Controversies, explains that the way our bodies burn oxygen in metabolism, produces by-products that are toxic to our bodies. The inevitability idea is that the changes that come with age are simply effects of required body functions.

The human lifespan is generally 85 years, give or take 15, this statistic seems to suggest that no one lives to be much older than 100 years. This is not true, there have been thousands who have lived to be much older than 100, the longest any human has ever lived was 122 years. Though it can not be precise, science assumes the maximum human lifespan to be around this, 122 years. Scientist have been investigating the idea of increasing longevity and raising the maximum human lifespan for decades, though there are theories, the actuality of this possibility is still unknown. Scientist have proven successful in extending the longevity in lab animals, using simple dietary restrictions scientist have been able to increase the lifespan in rodents and primates up to 40%. The method consist of cutting 40% of calorie intake, while still providing necessary nutrients. It is unknown whether or not this method would be successful in humans, but if it were to, it’s been estimated to add 30 years to a human lifespan. There have been other laboratory experiments using genetic manipulation that have proven to successfully extend lifespans, but are still in the early stages of development.

At first glance, the idea of living longer than expected seems like a good thing, after all isn’t that what we are all trying to do? Well, this may not be the case, lets consider some of the negative aspects of extended life. Most of our physiological functions begin their steady decline around the age of thirty, and by the time we hit old age our bodies will have already lost much of their abilities to repair and defend themselves. Even in our sixties, twenty years before the end of our current life expectancy, we are extremely susceptible to chronic illness and disease. It varies person to person, but the quality of life begins to significantly drop many years before we die, and when extending longevity you are essentially lengthening your bodies weakest years. What happens after you outlive the current life expectancy of 85 years? You continue to grow frail, and will exceed the morbidity levels of current lifespans. Living longer does not mean living healthier, the issue with longevity is that you are...
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