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150 years of Cliff, Collymore and Piers? No thanks.

HOW would you like to enjoy an extra 50 years on the planet, a marvellous five decades of middle-aged bliss, before the onset of decrepit old age takes its inevitable toll? That's what scientists are working on over in Silicon Valley, where doctor and investor Joon Yun has launched the 'Palo Alto Longevity Prize,' offering $1 million (PS650,000) to anyone who can "hack the code of life" and keep us all young. A weekend newspaper report quoted a gentleman called Stuart Kim, described as 'one of 50 world-class advisers' on the prize board and a professor in developmental biology and genetics at Stanford University, suggesting the Grim Reaper could be held at bay, possibly for many decades. "It's always been said that there's two certainties in life: death and taxation, but death isn't looking so certain anymore," says Mr Kim, who apparently believes ageing may simply be 'a medical problem for which a solution can be found.

* The report says the million-dollar prize will be awarded to 'the first team to unlock what many believe to be the secret to ageing: homeostatic capacity, or the ability of the body's systems to stabilise in response to stressors.' Dr Yun said: "Up until about 45-years-old, most people die from external stressors such as trauma or infection, but as we get older we die of what looks like a loss of intrinsic capacities.

"This isn't like plastic surgery where you're papering over the cracks, this is actually making a person younger from the inside out." He says increased homeostatic capacity could allow people to live beyond 120 years old - the theoretical maximum human lifespan. Apparently this would enable us to feel 50 when we are really 80, presumably a little like Joan Collins already feels. The interesting distinction here - if my admittedly unscientific mind has not confused the issue - is that the aforementioned boffins over in California are not suggesting they can postpone death indefinitely, merely that they can slow down the ageing process. It would be marvellous to think that we could all remain relatively young for much longer, but I can't help thinking that the Silicon Valley boys may be interfering with human nature a tad too far if they expect us all to live to be a robust 150 years old one day. Life expectancy is, in any case, increasing all the time. A league table shows Japan at the top of the league, with Japanese males and females at 85 and 87.3 respectively.

The UK trails at 28th in the ageing stakes, with an average of 81 years, or 79.5 for males and 82.5 for females. But compare that with the early Victorian era, when life expectancy for men was 40.2, 42.2 for women, and more than 70 per cent of the population was under 35. In 1841 150 out of every 1,000 babies died before they reached the age of one. But all the scientific research and statistics in the world may fail to take into account one crucial factor as we prepare for an average 14 score years and ten at some unspecified future date. And that is that life is surely a question of quality, not quantity.

Personally, after nearly six decades on the planet, I would rather spend 70 years living the life I want rather than hang on as grimly as possible whilst peers and contemporaries go to meet their maker. The Silicon Valley boys would argue that is their aim, to increase the quality of life for longer. But I'm not so sure. Another 50 or 60 years of middleage could mean another half a lifetime or so of Celebrity Big Brother, the the Brother X Factor, Katie Hopkins, Katie Hopkins, Factor Alan Green, Robbie Savage, Stan Collymore, Piers Morgan, Kevin Pietersen, Lord Prescott, Edwina Currie... Not that I am wishing the premature demise of the above - I only ask them to shut up and leave the civilised world alone. It could mean the state pension age being raised to 120, meaning we would all be working for 100 years or more. It might mean that Chelsea or Manchester City would win the Premier League every year for 50 years, given their unprecedented financial resources. Sir Cliff Richard, aged 130, would still be warbling Congratulations to hordes of panting blue-rinsed 140-year-olds.

More seriously, we would be in for another 50 years of violence in the Middle East, increased Russian aggression, more terrorism in the name of Islam. Robert Mugabe, now 90, could more than double the length of his bloodthirsty reign in Zimbabwe. There may even be attractions, or at least consolation, in ageing and death. Under the present system Mugabe-style thugs, bullies and There are very good reasons why you might not want to live that long... > Nothing ends with your death, except unimportant little you. Life is a relay race. Pass the baton... megalomaniacs all face the same fate as the rest of us, a comforting thought for the rest of the human race. Given the universal truth that none of us can live forever, notwithstanding the honourable efforts of Silicon Valley, I'll settle for a slow, vaguely contented decline into dotage, fortified by the occasional stiff drink or two. There's a memorable quote in the novel Going Gently by the wonderful David Nobbs, creator of Reggie Perrin, which recounts the life of heroine Kate

Thomas as she lies on her death-bed on the eve of her 100th birthday. Kate says: "We cannot avoid the fear of painful illness, but we must not fear death itself. It is not only inevitable, but desirable. Eternal life would be appalling. The value of life lies in its brevity. Relish the miracle of life every day. Make the most of it, both for yourselves and for others. Nothing ends with your death, except unimportant little you. Life is a relay race. Pass the baton." Precisely.

Nothing ends with your death, except unimportant little you. Life is a relay race. Pass the baton...


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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Feb 19, 2015
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