The longevity revolution: A near horizon

La revolución de la longevidad: Un horizonte cercano. - Tribuna Abierta, CENIE

Living long and well:

By now, we know that longevity is directly related to health, because it is no longer just about living many years, but about living many years fully and healthily.

Living longer does not mean "being old for longer", as many people think, but quite the opposite: longevity allows us to enjoy several decades of active, productive, vibrant, fulfilling and, of course, healthy life.

Obviously, to achieve this, we will need a high dose of planning, foresight and personal effort, but we will also have invaluable external help from the health sector, technology and various related sciences at the service of human beings in order to live many years.

How many years is "many years"?

Life expectancy in Spain is over 80 years, those of us who are reading this article will reach the age of 100; but there is a group of highly reputed scientists who estimate that, in the not too distant future, we will be able to live for 150, even 200 years... incredible, isn't it?

Today I want to bring you, precisely, several ideas and concepts that these people are developing and invite you to reflect on several things:

- To what extent does science fiction touch reality?

- Was I aware of what is happening?

- How do I feel knowing that I can live even beyond the maximum age I imagined?

- Am I willing to share my health information in order to have a "tailor-made" medicine?

- How does this longevity revolution affect my life, my environment?

- What opportunities can I find in this perspective?

- How will we have to redefine our relationship with age?

The basis of longevity today:

There are a number of factors that helped to increase life expectancy over the last hundred years, I leave you here the three that are key:

  • Improved nutrition, organisation and civil organisation.
  • Discovery and development of antibiotics and vaccines for most of the common diseases (latest example, the vaccine against COVID).
  • Reduced infant mortality rate and maternal survival.

These key factors have added between one and two years of life per decade. That is, if you are in your 40s, your life expectancy is now about 8 years longer than when you were born.

Longevity "escape velocity":

But if the above already seems astonishing, science and technology are exponentially accelerating the ability to add not two, but four, even eight years of life expectancy per decade.

There will come a time when science will leap ahead of ageing by reaching the so-called "escape velocity of longevity" causing a radical extension in human lifespan.

But this is yet to come. The more optimistic ones, they put a date of 12 years, the more conservative ones, between 50 and 80 years, so let's go back to the here and now to see what is already a reality and to see what we have within our reach and what we can do about it to live longer and better.

I really liked Sergey Young's way of structuring Longevity in his book. In it, he talks about dimensions and horizons, so I will summarise both below to help us situate ourselves in future articles and publications.


Prevention: Starting with the best known, which would be "preventing premature death". This dimension includes surgical interventions, pharmacological prescription, lifestyle, nutrition, treatment of diseases, repairing damage, taking precautions or trying to do the right thing. This dimension would also include autonomous vehicles (they already exist, but regulation is not yet defined), risky activity companies that have greatly improved their safety (nobody wants a second Chernobyl) and robots to perform surgery (the Da Vinci is the best known). We could simplify it as "optimising" our current longevity.

Extension: The aim here is to reach the maximum limit of life expectancy. Scientists know that it is well beyond 100 years, especially for women. That kind of "sound barrier" is about 115-125 years. It is known that ageing, and even dying, is not as inevitable as previously thought. This is where new technologies, calorie restriction, organ replacement, etc. come in. We are talking about "maximising" life expectancy.

Reversal: It is quite possible that when you read the two previous dimensions you said "Ok, I believe this". But what happens when we already talk about reversing the clock of ageing to, not just slow down, but rejuvenate? You may be sceptical, or have your serious doubts about it, but it is the dimension that generates the most enthusiasm too, especially among scientists and entrepreneurs. Experiments on mice show that it is possible to reverse ageing. In fact, there is a Spanish scientist involved, Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte! In this dimension there is talk of "supersonic" longevity, some 25 to 50 years further, reaching up to 200, or more....


Near: In this time frame are the new technologies that will come within 5-10 years and that will change our view on life expectancy and health care. I will mention the latest and most innovative ones related to longevity (although I am sure there are many more):

- Artificial intelligence: used from diagnostic development to disease management.

- Genetic engineering: aims to eliminate hereditary diseases and most cancer diagnoses.

- Tissue and organ regeneration: organ replacement can give us a new heart, liver, kidney, even an eye or tooth.

- Diagnostic devices: which will be able to scan our bodies to identify signs of disease on a daily or even more frequent basis.

- Pharmaceutical interventions: that will ease the path to a 150-year lifespan.

- Health data: this will lead to a new paradigm of personalised medicine based on biomarkers that will improve the effectiveness of the way we take care of our health.

I am very curious about this last point because personalisation is one of the biggest macro-trends and because the technology to measure our biomarkers already exists. I will continue to investigate!

Distant: this time frame encompasses everything that will allow us to live 200 years, feeling like we are 25 years old. It is to assume that we can rejuvenate biologically at the same time as we age chronologically. Moreover, here we go beyond the frontiers of science and things like ethics, spirituality, philosophy come into play... it is challenging the very basis of our existence and we have to be prepared for it.

Finally, but not the end (rather the beginning):

We are privileged. We are living in an era full of advances and improvements thanks to technology and we have to learn to use it to our advantage.

There are many things we can do today, here, ourselves, in order to improve our longevity and life expectancy. We don't have to wait.

It's not easy, of course, which is why I have a previous article on how to develop small habits for a long life. 

Diet, exercise and lifestyle are much more important than we think and it is all in our hands.

Psychological state, sleep habits, social activity, are variables that also need to be taken care of.

It is not necessary to try exotic drugs, to radically change our lives, to make gigantic efforts, but rather to adopt everything that is functional, practical, achievable and to take advantage of what we already know works and is within our reach.

I will continue to delve deeper into the dimension of Prevention and Extension in the near horizon to bring you closer to all that is available in the service of the Longevity Revolution.

See you next time

Soucers: Artículo basado en el libro “The Science and Technology of Growing Young” de Sergey Young – editorial Benbella