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Longevity

The science of ageing and anti-ageing

13 years, 3 months ago

854  0
Posted on Jul 27, 2005, 7 a.m. By Bill Freeman

The dramatic rise in life expectancy that the industrial world has experienced throughout the twentieth century has made ageing, or rather, the quest for a prolonged and healthy lifespan, an important topic, in need of a cross-cultural, as well as historical, understanding.
The dramatic rise in life expectancy that the industrial world has experienced throughout the twentieth century has made ageing, or rather, the quest for a prolonged and healthy lifespan, an important topic, in need of a cross-cultural, as well as historical, understanding. The main aim of the 2004 interdisciplinary EMBL/EMBO Science and Society conference on 'Time & Ageing—Mechanisms & Meanings', which constitutes the backdrop to this special issue of EMBO reports, was therefore to assess and analyse developments in those areas of the life sciences that focus specifically on the nature of 'time' and 'ageing'. We also wanted to pursue the wide range of meanings that result when basic science questions are projected into society and viewed by many as present-day manifestations of the relentless human proclivity to defy nature in the quest to prolong life and cheat death.

"All living organisms have time-measuring devices that affect their development, generation time, lifespan, and lifestyle" (Schibler, page S9). Beyond this apparent universality of physiological time, people perceive time and the passing of time in diverse ways, as mediated by their cultures (Helman, page S54). The value of 'long life' is thus, to a large extent, ascribed collectively, but differently in each time and place. On a global scale, 'population ageing'—the process by which older cohorts become relatively prominent in a given population—was one of the most distinctive demographic events that marked the twentieth century and will undoubtedly remain an important trend throughout this century (United Nations, 2001). Initially restricted to the more technologically developed countries, population ageing has recently become apparent in much of the developing world as well. In the near future, virtually all nations will face population ageing, although at varying levels of intensity and in different time frames.


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