Ageing: More life or just more years?

Professor Malcolm Jackson is a research scientist and Head of the University of Liverpool Institute of Ageing and Chronic Disease. His particular research interests are in understanding the mechanisms behind loss of skeletal muscle mass and function as we age.  Looking ahead to the University’s public debate on “Ageing: more life or just more years?” he considers the recent dramatic increase in average age in a city such as Liverpool and the major choices we face in the near future.shutterstock_1733803

The 20th century was marked by a remarkable increase in human life expectancy – to the extent that it is calculated to be increasing at the rate of approximately 5 hours every day in the UK. This is partly the result of scientific advances. Knowledge of the way our bodies work is becoming more and more detailed and scientists are specialising to an extraordinary degree and developing a basic understanding of the processes that cause ageing and of interventions that can potentially have huge impact on the length of our lives.

But do we really want to be so old if the quality of our life becomes very restricted?

In a time of limited budgets perhaps we should stand back and gain a wider perspective on our priorities. Instead of concentrating our efforts on increasing lifespan, we might want to concentrate on making the best of the years we have. If so, how should we go about this?  Does medical science necessarily hold the key to ‘the best’, or should we look to our lifestyles, our home environment or technological advances?

We have invited a panel of leading thinkers to share and debate their views at our Policy Provocations event on Wednesday 2 October. There are no easy answers to these questions but the speakers will certainly give clear views about the sort of policies that they favour.

Raymond Tallis, Emeritus Professor of Geriatric Medicine, University of Manchester; Tom Kirkwood, Director, Institute for Ageing and Health, Newcastle University; Diana Kuh, Director, Medical Research Council Unit for Lifelong Health & Ageing and Sybo Dijkstra, Senior Director, Philips Research UK are all experts in their fields and I’m looking forward to hearing their arguments.

Will you agree with any of them? The event is open to anyone who wants to come and questions are welcome. Tickets are free but must be booked in advance.

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