Should Aging be Considered a Disease?

Saul Kent, Editor
Life Extension Report
Life Extension Foundation

"At the age of 100 - when all but the healthiest and hardiest among us have already died - the odds of reaching 101, are only about 50/50. The probability of survival decreases exponentially from then on."

Resistance to New Ideas

It is thus clear that aging is the primary cause of death in medically-advanced countries, such as the United States. This is as clear as the sky is blue. To me. To most of my friends. To the readers of Life Extension Report. And to a few other enlightened souls. But to most people, the idea that aging is the major cause of death has never entered their minds. In some cases, this is because they have never been exposed to the idea. In most cases, however, it is because they are resistant to it. I've had numerous experiences in which I've explained how aging causes death to intelligent, highly educated people. To medical doctors and Ph.D. scientists. My explanation to these people was every bit as clear as in this editorial. Even more so. But, as I soon found out, I might as well have been talking to a rock! Or to a brick wall! For in each of these cases, the people, who nodded their heads when I spoke, as if they understood what I was saying, soon made it clear that they hadn't the foggiest notion of what I was talking about. It was as if they were in a hypnotic trance in which they were "forbidden" to let in new ideas, to even let themselves experience the taste of a new idea.

A Monumental Waste of Money

The idea that aging is our primary enemy, and that it should be the primary enemy of medical science is new and, as a result, has not yet penetrated the minds of the majority of Americans. As a result, the money that is seized from us each year in the form of taxes has been wasted tremendously in the past 30 years in the pursuit of wrong goals, under the guidance of wrong concepts. The government has been spending almost all the money that's been allocated for medical research in the pursuit of treatments for specific diseases instead of searching explicitly for ways to slow down or reverse aging. Billions of dollars has been wasted on research which, at best, could provide us with only limited benefits, while very little has been spent on practical, interventional aging research that, if successful, would provide us with enormous health benefits for everyone.

Ref: Editorial by Saul Kent, Life Extension Report, Vol. 10, No. 7, pp. 51-52 (July 1990).

[Editor's Note: This same topic was passionately discussed within our GRG Discussion Group at great length in late July and early August of 2003. Our previous LA-GRG position that "aging should, in fact, be considered a disease" has now been modified, and Saul Kent's views, as articulated above, are no longer consistent with our own (we have known Saul since we first arranged to meet in a local restaurant in New York City during the Summer of 1961). Instead, based on discussions with Prof. Leonard Hayflick of UC San Francisco, we now believe that aging is not so much a curable pathological process as it is a side effect of natural processes subject to the laws of physics, constraining both animate and inanimate objects in the universe from galaxies to molecules; we therefore assert that aging should be viewed as a biological problem to be "solved" by scientists and/or engineers rather than a medical condition to be "cured" by doctors or other medical practitioners. Indeed, looking toward physicians to cure aging may not be particularly useful, since their charter is somewhat different, and it strikes us as a little like a futile rearranging of the deck chairs on the Titanic. Doctors, using their standard medical model testing, diagnosis, prognosis, treating, and monitoring tend to focus on short-term crises rather than taking a long-term view of health and age-prevention/reversal in the context of human development.]