Extreme Longevity

Posted by Flux on 

6 December 2023

What’s trending?

Extreme longevity refers to individuals going to great lengths to prolong life and delay the ageing process. This usually involves ultra-wealthy individuals spending large sums of money. 

The poster child for this movement is the controversial Bryan Johnson, an American entrepreneur, venture capitalist, writer and author, who, among other extreme forms of behaviour, once used his 18-year-old son’s blood plasma to rejuvenate himself. He has spent more than $4 million developing a life-extension system called Blueprint, in which he outsources every decision involving his body to a team of 30 doctors and an algorithm which is used to develop a strict health regimen to reduce what Johnson calls his “biological age. It includes ingesting 111 pills every day, sleeping with a device attached to his penis to monitor his nighttime erections and no sunny vacations. Aside from Johnson, there are other ultra-rich individuals who are attempting to delay or reverse ageing. Jeff Bezos of Amazon and PayPal’s Peter Thiel were early investors in Unity Biotechnology, a company developing therapeutics to slow, halt, or reverse ageing. Elite athletes such as footballer Tom Brady and basketball star  Lebron James also employ expensive therapies to keep their bodies young.

Why is this important?

A large majority of scientists are sceptical about Johnson’s methods. However, there are also scientists who believe that limited age reversal is possible. Researchers at Harvard Medical School claim they’ve rejuvenated older mice, and are currently testing whether the ageing clock can be turned back in human skin and eye cells. We already measure ourselves (smart watches), ingest pills (vitamins, probiotics etc.) and manipulate genes (gene therapy) to stave off disease and improve our health. We are likely to see this ramp up. Science already prolongs life spans and this has an impact on healthcare systems, pension systems, and social policies. In the context of the workplace, the prevalence of more older people raises the question of retirement age. Combined with the lower birth rates that many industrialised nations are experiencing, we could end up with workplaces where there are more old people than young, which could have huge implications for innovation as young people bring fresh perspectives to organisations. Africa has a youth bulge so we are unlikely to see more older than young people in the workplace any time soon, but this comes with its own challenges. 

What can businesses do about this?

As life spans increase, there will be increased demand for products and services that support the elderly. Financial institutions can develop retirement planning and investment services that cater to the needs of those who expect to live longer. Businesses in certain sectors need to prepare for an older workforce and a re-evaluation of retirement age. Invest in upskilling older employees so that their skills remain relevant. Make sure that you are getting the most out of the input from your younger employees. Arrange opportunities for mentorship and reverse- mentorship whereby the young benefit from the experience of the old, and the old are kept informed about what’s new and to come. Set up systems that discourage ageism, as this could cost the company dearly if employees are discriminated against on the basis of age. 

By Faeeza Khan

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Image credit: Tim Foster

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