Brave new age: living to 100 and beyond

By Matt Perry

When I started covering Aging issues for the California Health Report almost two years ago, one man’s name kept popping up who consistently impressed me with his intelligence, and gleefully shocked me with his iconoclasm: Dr. Walter Bortz.

As the former president of the American Geriatrics Society, a current Stanford instructor, and author of “We Live Too Short and Die Too Long,” Bortz brought a no-nonsense approach to aging that soared above the sea of maddening corporate healthcare mumbo-jumbo and rampant patient irresponsibility.

An avid runner, Bortz thinks all doctors should promote exercise as the best possible anti-aging therapy. In a candid phone interview he once described prescription drugs this way: “A walk with a neighbor would do more good than all the friggin’ pills in the world.” And in a refreshingly pointed attack on the hypocrisy of the healthcare system he observed “I went to Kaiser and I’m sure you have to weigh 300 pounds before they’ll hire you.”

So when last week’s Newsweek cover trumpeted in enticing yet wildly inaccurate fashion You Can Live Forever in a story pairing Bortz with Aubrey de Grey, I was fascinated.

De Grey is the chief science offer at the SENS (Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence) Research Foundation, headquartered in Mountain View, and is committed to biomedical research that supports its tagline: “Reimagine Aging.”

The article – mostly a Q&A with Bortz and de Grey – questions some traditional truths about aging, in particular life span. While both men feel modern healthcare can easily support aging to 100, tech entrepreneur de Grey thinks once science solves what to do with ”the accumulation of simple molecular garbage,” the aging process can literally be reversed.

It’s well worth exploring the fascinating ideas from these two aging pioneers.

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