Do You Want to Live to Be 150?

Tonight at 10 p.m. E.D.T., ABC will broadcast a Barbara Walters special about longevity — or, really, super-longevity — that tries to sort out the many medical, social, and economic ramifications. I was interviewed for the show and apparently I appear toward the end of the hour.

Most of the questions I was asked concerned the consequences, unintended and otherwise, of the ongoing longevity boom. Most of my answers were what I would call informed speculation, since I don’t think anyone will live to 150 in my lifetime.

My research reading included papers about longevity and life-cycle savings, the voting impact of a larger elderly demographic, and the ability of elderly people to maintain expert performance. If none of that strikes you as very sexy — well, we talked bout the potential changes in elderly sex markets as well.

Thanatos Savehn

My Great Grandma almost made it to 103.

She was tough as nails. Lived by herself until just after she turned 102. She could wring a dish towel dry. Up and down stairs from the basement to upstairs 20 times a day cleaning or ironing or gardening or sewing. Kept it up almost to the end.

Her teeth started to go bad in her '60s. Without telling anyone, she went in, had them all pulled, got dentures, and that was that. Never complained. Never looked back.

She gave up smoking at 74. Gave up eggs (cholesterol scare) in her 80's. At 92 she had a stroke but refused to go to the hospital - "don't go to the hospital; especially if you're sick" she'd say. Instead she had her granddaughters get her two cans of lima beans - 15oz at first; later 28. She'd sit up in her bed, swing her legs over the side and exercise her arms while kicking her feet. Meanwhile my Mom was "making arrangements".

Her face sagged a bit but she was up and walking again in a week. My Mom told her that she'd earned the right to take it easy. Great Grandma said you can't take it easy - not if you want to stay healthy. She baked cakes for the Cake Walk at the church and hosted the fish fry 4 Fridays later. She fried the fish.

I got the call, again, from my Mom saying something was wrong with my Great Grandma and that I'd better come home. I'd heard it before - it was by then a running family joke. I'd almost started to believe that she'd found a way to cheat death. Besides, Willard Scott hadn't shown her picture at 100 or 101 or 102 so we figured she just had to make it to 103.

But she'd broken her hip and it wouldn't heal. I visited her in the hospital. She was catheterized and utterly miserable. The last words she said to me, crying, were "I've lived too long. I love you". She quickly developed a urinary tract infection and then pneumonia, and died. She was right about hospitals.

So I know that extreme old age can be lived well. And I also know that you can live too long. But I don't think that the Goldilocks option is available.



Dave, I agree. I also agree with M Todd, you can waste your time or make the most of it. I have a feeling I'd waste more time if I expected to have more time to begin with.

Don't sign me up for the 150 year plan, my health insurance benefits are likely to be maxed out by then anyhow.

Ben Abba

I am in the process of writing a book about people who had lived 150 years or more, such as Li Ching Yun, who died in 1933 at the age of 256 years. As I was researching these supercentenarians, I came across a few of these people that are still alive today that have surpassed 150 years. Of these incredible people, my focus is now on a living, breathing immortal whom I fully believe is nearly 2,800 years old.

My intentions was to find out how these amazing people survive for so many years. I fully believed that if we could model the lifestyle of these supercentenarians, we too could live a much longer and healthier life style. I have summarized what I have found on my main blog: which I intent to publish starting with my first book: "Secrets of an Immortal - An Eyewitness Account of 2,800 Years of History".


kathryn in california

Gloria Lucas,

There are research groups working to stop dialysis using different techniques. all of the techniques rely on the accelerating change that Kurzweil talks about--science is making things possible now that couldn't be done a decade ago.

So, there are groups working on rebuilding kidneys using stem cells. Of course, with stem cells, there are groups using embryonic stem cells, and other groups working with other sources. Each has pluses and minuses (beyond the politics of ESC).

Other groups are working on nanotechnology-based filters that could do what dialysis does, but in a small box that you could have with you, and one that filters many more chemicals properly--stopping the bad ones, letting through the good.

No one can know which of these many techniques will be first, but I'll bet that there'll be something to help you within the next 5-8 years.


Yes, let's devote energy, expertise and resources on living forever while life expectancy for a billion people sinks ever lower...

...ah, the 'Me' Generation. Gotta love'em.

Shannon Vyff

Hi, your comments were great. I was the mom at the beginning, that is signed for cryonics along with my children. There are some videos up on the piece at ABC news, two on the Alcor segment--but all the other segments from the whole hour long special are covered as well.

Someone at ImmInst put the link to your blog here.

Here is the link to the thread where your blog was mentioned.

By the way, I read a lot of freakonomics to my kids--I look forward to your upcoming one! :-) If you are interested in cryonics, they are giving free subscriptions to their magazine--mainly the science is covered, for community ImmInst is a better place to meet people. (other than a conference of course ;-) )


Here's some more resveratrol news: Recently Harvard University released a clinical study proving that a compound found in red wine called resverotrol may extend the human life span, resveratrol reduced the risk of death by 30 percent in the study .VIVA is a proprietary blend from the grapes grown in the Bordeaux France, the most powerful grapes on earth. Just 1 oz. serving of VIVA will give you the resverotrol equal to 10 bottles of Red wine and Viva contains no sugar or alcohol. There are juices on the market made from fruit and berries but, Sportron International is the first company in the world to harvest the power of red grapes which is now backed by the newly published Harvard scientific and clinical study. In fact I am sure that you have heard this news all over TV and read about it. The cover story for Dec. 11. 2006 edition of Newsweek magazine was devoted to this incredible ant-aging phenomenon.
to get more information on Viva go to:


M Todd

When I was 21, 40 seemed so old and then I turned 40 and I did not feel as old as I thought I would. Now that I passed 50 the idea of 80 or 90 does not seem out of the question. When I am 80 God willing, 150 may just be the next milestone.

Age looks differently from afar, but once you are there it is just another day like the last. It does not matter if you are 21 or 50 you can waste your time or make the most of it.

gloria lucas

ive been needing a kidney for 14 yrs now, been on dialysis,wich i hate. they can grow organs? i would love to be a patient if they need one to test on. i have polysistic kidney disease and being on diylsis is not fun im only 35 yrs old.

p.s. i dont mind being there test patient lol


For more info about aging and mortality and check out the Radio Lab program on mortality:

The section with Leonard Hayflick goes into the mechanism built into cells that cause them to age.

Tim Gray

I plan to live forever.

So far so good.

Tricia Franks

Resveratrol can help you to lead a long and healthy life so says Dr. Oz.

Resveratrol Supplements can help you control your weight naturally
by increasing energy, reducing cravings, and limiting your appetite.
According to Wikipedia, Consumer Lab, an independent dietary
supplement and over the counter products evaluation organization,
published a report on 13 November 2007 on the popular resveratrol
supplements. The organization reported that there exists a wide range
in quality, dose, and price among the 13 resveratrol products
evaluated. The actual amount of resveratrol contained in the
different brands range from 2.2mg for Revatrol, which claimed to have
400mg of "Red Wine Grape Complex", to 500mg for Transmax,
which is consistent with the amount claimed on the product's label.
Prices per 100mg of resveratrol ranged from less than $.30 for
products made by, jarrow, and country life, to a high of
$45.27 for the Revatrol brand. None of the products tested were found
to have significant levels of heavy metals or other contaminants.



I'd take 150.

Some people, like the researcher Aubrey de Grey, PhD, Cambridge, thinks that thousand year life spans (and more) will be common in the near future once the 7 biological processes that lead to aging are "fixed".

Joey S

My 10 yr old kid had this fear of dying and like everyone of us he confessed that everytime he thought about it, it makes him feel depressed. So I told him to just accept the fact that we wil all die someday. In fact even the great people, Einstein, Shakespeare, Mozart, etc had to give way so that the new generation can live.

So just try to make the most out of your life instead of worrying about death. Enjoy life then embrace death, if you try to push it away it will just hurt more!


isn't there an overlap (no pun intended) between the ability of elderly people to maintain expert performance and elderly sex markets?


OK, I admit this is not on point, but I have been looking for an opportunity to repeat it...

It is pretty ingrained in the Jewish tradition to wish others long life by wishing them to live to the age of 120. (Most likely, based on the statement in Genesis: "my spirit shall not rule in the human forever and his days shall be 120 years". ) So, Happy Birthday to someone on their birthday is expressed as "Happy Birthday, until 120" (especially in Yiddish and Hebrew.)

I recently saw this post:
What do you wish a person on his 120th birthday?
Have a nice day!


I'm sure this will be addressed in the program, but its not financially possible to work for 40 years and then live off your savings for next 85 years. Would you really want to live until 150 if you couldn't retire until age 100?


Why don't old people just get out of the way. There's nothing more annoying than the elderly sapping up resources AND ruining national politics.


Hey, I just heard that Hillary has dropped out of the race, conceding the dem nom. to Obama.
Sorry for being off topic, but not off color.
Oh by the way, APRIL FOOL!


Aaron, that sounds like a great plan, but one day you may have grandchildren.

Dubner, I can't think of anything less sexy that elderly people having sex.