How would you like to die? This was precisely the question Aubrey de Grey, the chief science officer at the SENS Foundation, opened his TEDMED 2009 talk with. He gave us three options: cancer, diabetes or Alzheimer's. He seemed downright angry (yet tongue-in-cheek) that the elderly have lost the vigor and mental agility they had as young adults and while it's nice that they have more experience and wisdom, they don't have the strength to do much with it. "There the small cost of 200 billion dollars a year to keep the elderly going in a frail and decrepit state that for most increases their lifespan for a year or two." His SENS Foundation works on developing and promoting widespread access to regenerative medicine solutions to remedy the disabilities and diseases of aging.
What is aging? De Grey defines it as metabolism, which continually causes damage and damage eventually causes pathology. Slowing down the progression of the pathology is one way about it (geriatrics), but there's only so much we can do and ultimately people go downhill anyway, he says. His preferred approach? The maintenance approach: constantly repairing damage and keeping it down to a level that doesn't allow pathologies to emerge (hence he's had the reputation that he's on a quest to create immortality, a claim he says might be a side benefit of improving quality of life through time, but not the point). "Human bodies are just a machine," he says.
Following the conversation around aging, Eric Dishman, co-founder of the Center for Aging Services, Intel fellow, Digital Health Group, and behavioral scientist who studies aging behavior said behavioral markers matter in early diagnosis of a medical issue in the elderly. At Intel he's working on collecting actual household patterns and behavioral markers (24/7) like changes in postural sway, voice recognition response time upon answering a phone, gait and stride-length through different rooms in the house in order to predict an incident before it happens. For example, if someone is being monitored through time and their voice is softer each time they answer the phone over the course of months, it might be a sign of Parkinson's 5 to 10 years before any obvious medical condition presents itself. He stressed the important of a shift from mainframe to personal health care.
More to come later... keep checking back.
Here's to your health!
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