Old age, start of a new life

Last Wednesday I was able to attend the Nobel prize dialogue, which was held in Madrid, at the Ramón Areces Foundation, on the aging of the population. In it we were lucky to have, among others, Ada Yonath Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2009 for his discovery about ribosomes, responsible for producing proteins in all cells, from the simplest, such as bacteria, even the most complex like human ones, something essential for life.

Aged pablation

We also had the presence of Mario Vargas Llosa, Nobel Prize for Literature, the Norwegian Edvard Moser Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine with his wife, being one of the few couples with this award, for his contributions in the field of neurosciences, etc.

I was struck by the fact that in prestigious universities such as Oxford or Harvard there are already programs or institutes dedicated to the study of the phenomenon of aging that affects western society. Sarah Harper and David Bloom, who were responsible in the two institutions, attended the dialogue. Medical, demographic, political, economic, cultural and social inequality aspects were discussed.

In western countries there is an aging population. Of a few dozens of people centenarians in the first half of the twentieth century we have passed to several tens of thousands today. There are even people like the Italian Emma Morano who recently died at the age of 117 having been born before the year 1900, lived therefore in three different centuries. But the most important thing is that the period of disease free life, that is, healthy, is also increasing.

The retirement age

In the near future this is going to produce various changes. During the life of a person is going to be able to train in different disciplines. You will have enough time to study different careers or trades. In this way, aging will be an active and productive process. Retirement at 65, as now, will disappear. This age was chosen arbitrarily by Otto Von Bismarck in 1880, since at that time the average age of the Germans was 70 years. So the time during which the pensions were paid was lower than today and the number of active workers for each retiree was greater.

Therefore, a delay in the age of retirement and that this is progressive leaving the work gradually and not necessarily. A bit like our King Juan Carlos, who has progressively ceased his activity until leaving public life in the month of June, as has been announced. (The Queen of England with close to 100 years is another living example of this theory about flexible retirement).

Advances in the early detection of diseases, such as cancer. The best treatment of those conditions typical of advanced ages such as dementia or Parkinson's, will increase the disease-free life period. The increase in age will condition that it be investigated, in an intensive way, in disciplines such as the robotic. The robots will be able to perform the heaviest jobs. There will even be those who do housework or accompanying the elderly.

The aging of the population is interrelated with social and cultural inequality. In countries like Mexico, the well-to-do classes have a life expectancy similar to that of Europe, while the poorer classes have a much lower life expectancy. We have to change our concept of aging. Improvements in health, the evolution of demography and economic and technological changes so they will require it in the very near future.

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