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Ever heard of the Longevity Dividend? Perhaps Gray is the New Gold

Posted May 27 2009 12:00am

The Longevity Dividend is a theory that says we hope to intervene scientifically to slow the aging process, which will also delay the onset of age-related diseases. Delaying aging just seven years would slash rates of conditions like cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease and heart disease in half. That’s the longevity part.

The dividend comes from the social, economic, and health bonuses that would then be available to spend on schools, energy, jobs, infrastructure—trillions of dollars that today we spend on healthcare services. In fact, at the rate we’re going, by the year 2020 one out of every $5 spent in this country will be spent on healthcare. Obviously, something has to change.

Enter the Longevity Dividend. The Longevity Dividend doesn’t suggest that we live longer; instead, it calls for living better. The idea is that if we use science to increase healthspan, not lifespan. In other words, tomorrow’s 50-year-old would have the health profile of a 43-year-old.

It might sound like science fiction, but, in fact, it’s quite possible. We’re already doing it in some animal models using genetic and dietary interventions, techniques related to what scientists call “the biology of aging.”

Getting there in humans, however, means embracing an entirely new approach to our thinking about disease and aging, and how we conduct scientific research into the two.

Getting Scientists’ Attention

A group of eminent researchers first proposed the Longevity Dividend in a 2006 article published in The Scientist. The authors, S. Jay Olshansky, PhD, professor of epidemiology and biostatics at the University of Illinois in Chicago, Daniel P. Perry, executive director of the Alliance for Aging Research in Washington, DC, Richard A. Miller, MD, PhD, professor of pathology at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and Robert N. Butler, MD, president and CEO of the International Longevity Center in New York, intended their essay to be a “general statement to scientists” about the need for a paradigm shift in the way we think about aging and disease.

The researchers also met with U.S. senators who served on the Senate committee that oversaw the budget for the National Institutes of Health (NIH). “We told them we believed

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