Human Lifespans Lengthening, But How Long Is Too Long?

(CBS) — People are living longer than ever.  And if scientists have their way, life expectancies will continue to rise.  Babies of today could possibly live to 150.

But as CBS 2’s Mary Kay Kleist reports, there are questions as to whether we should live that long.

Baby Maxwell Jones is just hours old. But some say, he could live well into the next century.

“A hundred years seems a stretch, but it’s obviously possible,” his mother says.

Dr. Joyce Fogel, a geriatrician, says medical advances have already made a huge difference.

“There was a time when people didn’t live to older age because they died of the flu. We’re doing much better. In 1900, when somebody was born, they were expected to live to the age of 50,” she says.

Now, scientists are making huge advances in the lab, growing new organs from adult human stem cells, creating body parts with 3-D printers and using gene therapy to successfully treat diseases like blindness and leukemia. And that’s not all. Doctors have already doubled the lifespan of a worm.

But work like that isn’t considered mainstream. And not everyone believes science should control our destiny or that living past 100 is a good idea.

Researcher Sonia Arrison says longer lifespans will change everything about the way we live, from our families to our finances. Some people will have second, even third, careers.

“You wouldn’t want to retire at 65,” she says. “It gives people options and allows them to create the life that they really want to live. And I think that’s extremely exciting.”

But for now, prevention and working to stay healthy goes a long way to improve quality of life later on.

“I would question if we’re really going to hit 150, but I think I would want people to live with good quality of life. If at 150 we’re filling up nursing homes, I wonder,” Fogel says.

For adults today, aging experts say that a healthy lifestyle helps you make it into your 80’s.  After that, it’s genetics that matter most.

  • Roberta Waker

    Let’s see now; if you retire at 75 and live to be 150 that means you will have to live on Social Security or the State for 75 years. It also means you will continue to watch the United States deteriorate into a fifth world country and our “standard” of living continue its downward spiral. It could also mean nursing homes will be jammed with senior citizens who can’t pay to stay there so where will they go when they run out of money and the government can’t support them? Would you really want to live to be 150? HELLl NO!!!

  • WetNurse

    Why anybody would want to live to be 150 years old in today’s world is beyond me. We are already overpopulated and incapable of caring for the elderly. The quest for eternal life is nothing more than selfishness and fear of dying.

  • Guest

    Let’s look at the facts here:

    -We have early signs that suggest the science is going to allow us to live vastly longer lives (I wouldn’t set a number like 150 that we’re suddenly going to jump to, I think it’s going to continue to edge higher almost indefinitely and it could be asymptotic). This raises the question of being able to live forever (but again, if you go to say 300+ years, I think it might start to overwhelm the mind in terms of storing all the memories in a manner that is pleasant and not overly augmented by some scify computer memory system).

    -While there is debate as to how long we all want to live most of us would be happy living a long life if we had the body of a healthy 20 something. So more important than extended life is extending youth and the ratio of youth to lifespan. So we’d have to look at how the science of youth extension keeps pace with that of life extension. Although in reality these are within the same research.

    -If the prospect of living indefinitely approaches, we do need to look at the ethical, religious and moral decisions that may come along with it. Is it better to live 200+ healthy years and die by euthanization in the future or to let ourselves painfully decline as is often the case in today’s world?

    -And yes we need to look at the implications for the economy in parallel with the bio research as it will be just as big a challenge to manage this as it is to develop anti-aging technologies. We’re facing the same problem with autonomous cars in that lawyers are working just as heavily on the legal aspects as the engineers are on the technology. But tech has always had major implications for our economy, so we need to deal with it no matter what (just look at what automation has done to employment).

  • Guest

    Sorry I meant to say “exponential” not “asymptotic” in my last post. “

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