Would you want to live to be 150 years?

Old woman. [Courtesy]
How long would you like to live? Is it for 80, 100 or perhaps 150 years?

Well, experts now believe it is possible for humans to live 150 years, thanks to advances in medicine and technology.

Life expectancy of the human race was the centre of discussion during the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting of the New Champions held in Dalian, China between July 1 and 3.

For a long time, many believed the curse of our forefathers shortened the life of the human race, while the emergence of lifestyle diseases shortened it even further.

Man-made disasters made dying even more unpredictable. A life expectancy of 150 therefore seemed a pipe dream.

But not anymore.

Speaking during the Dalian meeting, Simone Schuerle, an assistant professor in responsive biomedical systems laboratory, said he believed it was possible to live that long today, or, at least we are almost there.

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“If you look at the past century, we have basically managed to double life expectancy in the United States from 47 years in the 1900s to the current 80. This, by simply managing infectious diseases,” she said.

She said great strides had been made by research to treat some of the erstwhile hard-to-cure diseases such as cancer, giving a ray of hope for longevity.

“The forecast looks more promising. Some statistics predict that by 2050 the life expectancy in the US will reach 95,” she said.

Still, Kenyans are way behind in the race for longer life. Compared to the US' life expectancy of 80, the World Health Organisation (WHO) in 2016 set the Kenyan's life expectancy at 72 years.

The global health organisation concedes that lifestyle diseases such as cancer, which claimed 38,000 lives in 2018, paint a grim picture of the future.

However, the rather optimistic Schuerle argues that notwithstanding the heavy cost of treating cancer, Kenyans can hope to still live longer with advances in cancer care.

“I expect people to reach 150, but I do not expect to reach that age. Biology is complicated. In addition, I think the decisions we make in our environment plays a big role. For instance, smoking and lung cancer used to be a major cause of death 30 or 40 years ago, today in America we talk about diabetes,” said Bob Kain, the CEO of Lunadna, a company that facilitates study of DNA.

Kain’s take is simple: If by any chance it is possible to increase life expectancy to 150 years and beyond, then it should be done strategically.

“As we live longer we don’t want to add years to the end of our lives, but add years to the middle of our lives. We want to ensure that we get those years when we are more vibrant (and) active and possibly working so that we can support those depending on us,” said Kain.

Classification of aging as a health condition in 2018 by WHO might have raised hopes to researchers and scientists that such could be reversed.

Ageing has been associated with numerous lifestyle diseases such as diabetes and cardio-vascular illnesses. Researchers have been working on an anti-aging regimen that has been tested on fruit flies and worms –which have a shorter lifespan compared to the human race.

However, not everyone is keen on living longer.

History Professor Jerry Muller from the Catholic University of America described the idea of living up to 150 as undesirable. “Some people leave their mark in the world through creativity, but most leave their mark by having children and nurturing them and, if all goes well, becoming grandparents. (You should) see your life as not just a segment that ends with death, but as part of a larger narrative,” he said.

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Life expectancyWHOWorld Economic Forum150 years