What Living To 150 Might Look Like
We see the headlines every day. “13 Habits Linked to a Long Life (Backed by Science),” “There’s no limit to longevity, says study that revives human lifespan debate,” “Is longevity determined by genetics?”
Eat this food. Take this supplement. Make these lifestyle changes. Read this study. Count on your genes. It’s a never-ending buzz surrounding longevity, and we’re all in, waiting to hear the latest news on how we can live longer and stronger.
But what does it all actually mean in terms of our physical bodies? Will there even be enough food available if we start living to 150? What does retirement look like when you live past 100?
Sergey Young, longevity expert and founder of the Longevity Vision Fund—which invests in breakthrough technologies that hope to increase the human lifespan—wants to bust some myths about what longevity really means and specifically what living to 150 (and beyond) might look like. Here are a few of his theories:
1) Myth: We Need to Live to 150 in the Same Physical Body.
Fact: “For the time being, due to wear and tear, the human body doesn’t typically last much beyond 100 years,” Young said. “However, revolutionary approaches in medicine will push boundaries of what was previously thought possible and offer solutions to renew and replace our body parts.”
Young said 3D bioprinting will allow patients to replace failed or poorly functioning body parts and benefit from a novel way of restoring lost tissue and its function. In fact, an article last year, TechCrunch, outlined ways in which 3D printing is already revolutionizing the healthcare industry through personalized prosthetics, bioprinting and tissue engineering, 3D-printed skin for burn victims, and pharmacology.
Companies like United Therapeutics are already helping to solve the acute issue of national shortage of transplantable lungs, as well as bioprinting organs such as heart, liver, and kidneys, Young said.
And going beyond replaceable body parts, certain companies will allow us to regrow our own tissue and organs, Young said. LyGenesis is currently working on regrowing patients’ tissues in their own lymph nodes, while Celularity is producing allogenic cells and tissues derived from postpartum placenta.
2) Myth: Current State of Medicine Can Support 150-Year Lifespans
Fact: “Medicine will transform from a one-size-fits all approach into highly personalized healthcare, focused on early diagnostics and treatment, and assisted by breakthroughs in artificial intelligence (AI),” Young theorized. “Therefore, health issues will be seen as ‘engineering’ problems rather than biological ones.”
Young referenced English author and biomedical gerontologist Aubrey De Gray who said: “Our body is a machine and it can be subjected to maintenance and repair the same way a car does”
“We will win the fight with ‘killer monsters’ like cancer by focusing on early diagnostics, which currently allows recovery rates for some types of cancer to exceed 90%,” Young said.
And artificial intelligence (AI) will support unprecedented breakthroughs, cure previously fatal diseases, and make drugs more affordable and accessible, Young said. “Insilico Medicine used AI to find six promising treatments for fibrosis in just 21 days, while big pharma can take several months to develop a new drug without this technology.”
Young said wearables are already assisting with everything from real-time health monitoring and emergency assistance to helping us sleep better.
3) Myth: 150 Year Lifespans will Lead to Food Scarcity due to Overpopulation
Fact: Young speculates that the food industry will be transformed in the future and become efficient enough to support 150-year lifespans through optimizing production practices, usage of agricultural space and food waste. In fact, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation just yesterday announced it had picked St. Louis, Missouri as its headquarters for establishing a new nonprofit agriculture center focused on helping “smallholder farmers adapt to climate change and make food production in low- and middle-income countries more productive, resilient, and sustainable.”
“Current food production and availability is not sustainable,” Young said, “and contributes to approximately 30% of global greenhouse gas emissions, occupies about 40% of global land,” leaving a staggering 30-40% of food going to waste in the U.S.
Young said he believes food production will be radically changed through practices such as vertical farming, growing produce in commercial greenhouses on urban rooftops, and using biological controls such as predatory insects to control pest populations without synthetic pesticides.
Young said he believes plant-based meat alternatives such as Beyond Meat will replace conventional meat, which is more inflammatory and less sustainable for the planet.
“The food supply chain will be shortened by emphasizing local production,” Young theorized. “In the future, 3-D food printers will produce highly nutritional and functional food personalized and optimized for each individual.”
4) Myth: You Need to be 100% Vegan or Vegetarian to Extend Your Lifespan to 150
Fact: Young said that while studies have linked plant-based diets to better heart health and a lower risk of dying from a heart attack, stroke or other cardiovascular disease, there is no need to stick to a vegan or vegetarian diet religiously in order to reap its health benefits and extend your lifespan. “Some nutrients, such as EPA and DHA, for example, are best obtained from fish, seafood and animal products such as eggs,” he said. “As such, it is best to get the majority of your calories from plant foods, while adding some organic, locally-farmed, high quality fish, meat and eggs for a varied and healthy diet.”
5) Myth: Vegan or Vegetarian Diets Mean Less Optimal Brain Performance
Fact: Young said while not many studies have been done on this subject, there seems to be a link showing that plant-based diets are able to influence brain function positively through altered microbial status and systemic metabolic alterations.
“It’s not clear whether the beneficial effects are due to the plant-based diet per se, certain nutrients in the diet, or the avoidance of animal-based nutrients,” Young said. Despite the positive effect of plant-based diets on brain health, there is a risk of these diets creating deficiency in the essential brain nutrient choline–which is why some proportion of eggs and other animal-based products should still be kept in the diet, as good sources of this essential nutrient, he said.
6) Myth: Contemporary Social Paradigms Can Withstand 150-year Lifespans
Fact: Young said he believes our current social paradigms will become more diverse as our lifespans are prolonged. “For example, in addition to a traditional lifelong marriage, 150-year lifespans may make it completely normal to have a variety of relationships, such as multiple marriages, kids-based partnerships, or relationships dictated by one’s priorities at any given life stage,” he said.
Young points to the fact that contemporary marriages are currently only lasting for about 7 years before ending in divorce and more women are choosing to postpone having kids or benefiting from options such as egg or oocyte freezing to manage their fertility. “To date, the oldest woman to give birth was 73, but with 150-year old lifespans, we will not only be able to choose to have kids much later in life than previously thought possible, but also have more time to spend with them,” he said.
7) Myth: Living Longer Means We Will Have an Influx of the 50-plus Population Out of the Workforce
Fact: On the contrary, says Young. The 50-plus population will be redefining longevity, contributing to the economy and supporting jobs.
“The rising spending of the 50-plus cohort will provide direct benefits for employment for all generations,” Young postulated. For example, it is projected that by 2050 over 102.8 million jobs (45% of the total) will be supported by the 50-plus population. According to AARP, people over 50 will contribute significantly to federal, state and local taxes, and their contribution will quadruple in dollar value terms between 2018 and 2050.
8) Myth: Living Longer Means You Will Outlive Your Assets
Fact: “While this is a valid concern, changing the way we approach pensions and plan retirement can dramatically reduce this risk,” Young said. “The risk can be mitigated by diversifying your assets and also adjusting your strategy as you approach retirement—for example, by shifting your investments to a more conservative portfolio strategy with less volatile investments.”
Young suggests making use of the Health Savings Account (HSA), which can offer significant tax savings to pay for qualified medical expenses and long-term care now or during your retirement and working with a financial professional to help navigate your retirement planning and identify which risk factors may affect you.
Young said his mission is to identify, fund and accelerate the most promising breakthroughs in life-extension technology and to make them accessible and affordable for everyone. He is development sponsor of the Longevity XPRIZE and Innovation Board Member at XPRIZE Foundation, a nonprofit organization that designs and manages public competitions intended to encourage technological development in biotech and life extension to benefit humanity.