“Once upon a time, the planet was tyrannized by a giant dragon. The dragon stood taller than the largest cathedral, and it was covered with thick black scales. Its red eyes glowed with hate, and from its terrible jaws flowed an incessant stream of evil-smelling yellowish-green slime. It demanded from humankind a blood-curdling tribute: to satisfy its enormous appetite, ten thousand men and women had to be delivered every evening at the onset of dark to the foot of the mountain where the dragon-tyrant lived. Sometimes the dragon would devour these unfortunate souls upon arrival; sometimes again it would lock them up in the mountain where they would wither away for months or years before eventually being consumed…”-Nick Bolstrom, “The Fable of the Dragon-Tyrant.” nickbostrom.com. Originally published in Journal of Medical Ethics, 2005, Vol. 31, No. 5, pp 273-277.
And now, almost 17 years after the publication of this fable, there appears to be the first weapon against the dragon tyrant of the tale:
“Senolytic vaccination also improved normal and pathological phenotypes associated with aging, and extended the male lifespan of progeroid mice. Our results suggest that vaccination targeting seno-antigens could be a potential strategy for new senolytic therapies.”-Suda, M., Shimizu, I., Katsuumi, G. et al. Senolytic vaccination improves normal and pathological age-related phenotypes and increases lifespan in progeroid mice. Nat Aging 1, 1117–1126 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s43587-021-00151-2
I’d guess probably 20 years until this is a regular feature of clinical therapy.
“According to new research, there may be a surprisingly effective way for men to increase their lifespans — but it requires a pretty severe alteration to the physical body that may not appeal to everybody.
An international team led by researchers from the University of Otago in New Zealand were able to show that castration of male sheep delays the aging of DNA, and the same principles could apply to humans as well.–Victor Tangermann, “Wanna Delay Aging? Get Castrated, Scientists Say
It’s not an ideal solution..” Futurism. July 7, 2021.
I’ll just point to “Ask Your Doctor: Is Castration Right For You?” published on this very blog on May 25, 2017. Now, we can add sheep to the myriad examples.
“Warren Sanderson and Sergei Scherbov suggest that we classify old age by looking closer at the end. Instead of counting the number of years someone has lived (and whether or not they’re at least 65), we can go the other direction and look at the number of expected years left. They recommend the 15-year mark, as shown below.”—Nathan Yau, “Redefining Old Age.” Flowing Data. August 26, 2020.
Depending on whether you live in the United States and which state you live, average life expectancy is between 75-82 years. If we use this 15 year rule, old age is ages 60-67. I’m not sure how this is an improvement over using 65 years old as a shorthand.
I think the more interesting conversation in aging should center on function, such as living independently, and redefining old age as a state where support is required.
20th Century Women is such a lovely little movie. Part coming of age story. Part a story about aging. Part a story about male/female relationships that explores how difficult these are to navigate, particularly given our collective idiosyncrasies and brokenness. Recommended.
Open Question: Does living alone position people for having a broader social support network?
“I don’t want to take care of anybody. I want to take care of me,’ said Nadell, who divorced her second husband two decades ago. ‘You want to be friends and get together, when I say it’s okay to get together? Fine. But to be in a relationship where I have to answer to somebody else? Been there, done that, don’t want to do it again.'”
As these solo dwellers age, the question becomes what happens when they grow frail and need someone to lean on. DePaulo argued that those who live alone often maintain broader networks of support than married couples do, pointing to a raft of international research. Partners who live separately for some portion of the week still tend to each other in sickness, and are well-positioned as caregivers because “we have our own place to recharge our batteries and avoid the all-too-frequent caretaker burnout,” said Hyman, 57, who has lived away from her partner for 20 years.”-Zosia Bielski, “The new reality of dating over 65: Men want to live together; women don’t.” The Globe And Mail. November 26, 2019.