From Linda Geddes at Nature:
Jeanne Calment outlived her daughter and grandson by decades, finally succumbing to natural causes at the ripe old age of 122. Calment, who was French and died almost two decades ago, is thought to be world’s longest living person. But if subsequent advances in medicine have lulled you into thinking that you might exceed this record, think again.
An analysis of global demographic data published in Nature1 suggests that humans have a fixed shelf life, and that the odds of someone beating Calment’s record are low — although some scientists question this interpretation. They say that the data used in the analysis are not unequivocal, and that the paper doesn’t account for future advances in medicine.
Human life expectancy has steadily increased since the nineteenth century. Reports of supercentenarians — people such as Calment who live to older than 110 — together with observations of model animals whose lifespans can be extended through genetic or dietary modifications, have prompted some to suggest that there is no upper limit on human lifespan. Others say that the steady increase in life expectancy and maximum human lifespan seen during the last century will eventually stop. More.
Of course the trend will stop. This is a finite, time bound universe in which everything stops eventually. Technology won’t change that. It might produce some really weird stuff in the meantime, like a huge demand for transplant organs from willing, unwilling, desperate, or unconscious donors.
Modern technology has enabled more humans than ever before to approach the maximum lifespan. Indeed, that was the true story behind the “Population Bomb” a-crock-a-lypse. People were not breeding like flies, they were simply losing fewer children before puberty than previous generations had. It takes a generation or two for cultures to recognize that fact as a long term change and adjust their plans accordingly.
One interesting thing: In the Book of Genesis, we read,
Then the LORD said, “My Spirit will not contend with humans forever, for they are mortal; their days will be a hundred and twenty years.”
So that idea seems to be an old one. But how did they know?
Note: Your news writer, O’Leary for News, has parents currently 97 and 92, and one grandmother who lived to be 101. We think that the secret to longevity is an active social life with people who care about us. Evidence: Lonely people usually do not live as long as others and solitary confinement is a form of discipline, penance, or punishment, rarely a reward.
Gixmodo on the topic.
See also: Epigenetics: Inheritance of longevity non-genetic?
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