Modern Medicine

How do some people live past 100 without signs of disease?
Answered by Aubrey de Grey
  • Aubrey de Grey

    Aubrey de Grey

  1. Aubrey de Grey Chief Science Officer, SENS Foundation


    I think it's important to understand that when people who describe individuals who've lived to, let's say 102, without a disease, they're relatively healthy – first of all, the relative word is "relatively." They still couldn't quite keep up with their granddaughter on the dance floor the day before they died, or even the year before they died, and so I think if we want to be not ageist – if we want to take the view that old people really are people, too – then we have to be very careful in using phrases like "healthy for their age."

    Second of all, I think that one thing that's easy to overlook is that most people who die in relatively good health at an extreme age, like 100 or more, do have problems. It's just that those problems are not of the type that we tend to give names to, specific names. So, yes, they didn't have cancer. Yes, they didn't have diabetes. Though in fact it turns out that if you do autopsies on them, they did certainly have these things. It's just that they hadn't progressed to a life-threatening stage and they died of something more nonspecific before all the other things got to them. So, really, the same sets of things are happening in everybody, except that they're happening a little bit more slowly in some people than others.

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