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Aging Issues in the 21st Century

One of our readers Celina Jacobson recently shared these links to some fascinating TED videos on aging.  Dad would have been especially interested in viewing Dan Buettner’s report on living to be at least 100.

10 Fascinating TED Talks on Aging

Many cultures today unfortunately dismiss the elderly because of the diseases and infirmities that settle in as time marches forward. But, as with all things, there exists a very precise, very unique science behind why everything — most especially biological matter — eventually ages and dies. Understanding the various corners behind this inevitable phenomenon marks the first step in combating many of the oft-debilitating conditions associated with growing old. Alzheimer’s, cancer, diabetes and more could eventually fade to nothing someday thanks to the painstaking research by innovative professionals. Although the following TED Talks may not explicitly cover age as it relates to humans, it does offer a nicely broad glimpse at some of the associated issues and insights.

  1. Aubrey de Gray says we can avoid aging: This talk is sure to pique curiosity and discussion: Cambridge aging expert Aubrey de Gray draws some compelling parallels between growing old and suffering from diseases. From these conclusions, he believes that age can actually be cured, outlining seven particular points that would need addressing. Slowing the process would certainly quell the suffering of billions and (in theory) allow them more time in which to enjoy life and accomplish goals.
  2. Gregory Petsko on the coming neurological epidemic: In less than six minutes, this lecture peers into issues associated with the swelling elderly population that comes with improved healthcare. An increase in Alzheimer’s and other dementia disorders is Gregory Petsko’s main concern, and he argues that brain science needs more funding and serious research and inquiry as a result. Without it, the demographic runs the risk of suffering en masse from the various neurological diseases accompanying aging.
  3. Ed Ulbrich: How Benjamin Button got his face: So the aging mentioned here is completely digital rather than an organic process, but anyone interested in intersections between biology and technology will find Ed Ulbrich’s TED Talk wonderfully enlightening. Marvel at how Digital Domain painstakingly studied the human face — as well as available media — to artificially pack the years onto Brad Pitt. They ended up winning an Academy Award for their efforts, which come detailed in loving depth in this lecture.
  4. Dean Ornish says your genes are not your fate: Sometimes, genetics seems like a ticking time bomb of bioterror, lurking in wait for specific ages to crop up so they can unleash hell. But Dean Ornish believes that mindful and healthy habits — such as chowing down on chocolate and blueberries – may actually override some of these factors. Trying some of the strategies he recommends slow the aging process and bulk up the brain cells, resulting in the longer, happier life most people seem to want.
  5. Dan Buettner: How to live to be 100+: Blue zones, such as the ones found in Sardinia and Okinawa, boast more centenarians than anywhere else in the world. Dan Buettner has devoted his life to studying their secrets, and uses his lecture time to discuss how these individuals carved out such healthy and lengthy existences. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the answer lay in their simple, healthy lifestyle habits — some of which even date back all the way to the Bronze Age!
  6. Rachel Sussman: The world’s oldest living things: Rachel Sussman uses her TED Talk to discuss her research into plants and animals living continuously for over two millennia, including a Chilean plant, Tobagonian brain coral and Antarctic moss. Although the lecture obviously doesn’t discuss the human aging process, her work might very well open the floodgates to further study on organic longevity. In addition, Sussman also showcases some startling photos of what might very well be the oldest living thing currently kicking it today.
  7. Anthony Atala on growing new organs: Organ replacement obviously plays a pivotal role in keeping individuals alive and able to enjoy a longer, healthier life. But despite this, “a patient dies from diseases that could be treated with tissue replacement” roughly every 30 seconds. Anthony Atala hopes to address this dire situation with some amazing bioengineering works that grow viable tissues and organs right there in a laboratory setting – saving countless lives and changing the way science and society look at the aging process.
  8. Eva Vertes looks to the future of medicine: Alzheimer’s fascinates Eva Vertes, who shares both her medical research and personal connection with science in this lecture. Viable cures for both the neurological disorder and cancer, she argues, should be top priorities to the healthcare community. Rethinking and exploring how they form and operate may very well mean a healthier elderly population enjoying a lengthened existence.
  9. Ray Kurzweil on how technology will transform us: Nanotechnology might completely overcome human thought someday, claims prominent futurist philosopher and scientist Ray Kurzweil. While such a scenario undoubtedly presents a few existential (and, for some, ethical) issues, what it could mean for individuals suffering from developmental, dementia or other neurological disorders is rather clear. If such machinery comes to perfectly mimic (if not exceed) normal human function, it may very well help combat — if not cure! — many deadly, degenerative brain diseases and defects.
  10. Martin Rees asks: Is this our final century?: Rather than looking at the longevity of individuals, this lauded astronomer prefers contemplating how much longer the human species itself has to live. Although most advances in technology carry with them some amazing potential, they also could cut a hefty swath of destruction as well. For the good of all, Martin Rees begs all current and future innovators to curb scientific and technical abuse of their creations.

Reprinted from the Masters in Health Care blog with permission.  Thanks, Celina.

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