X-Message-Number: 27749
From: "John de Rivaz" <>
Subject: Pensions and life extension. - the iron lungs of gerontology
Date: Thu, 23 Mar 2006 12:42:47 -0000

The debate about pensions and life extension seems to be a non-issue. Once
it is demonstrated the healthy lifespan is being extended an appreciable
amount, legislation will be introduced to set the pensionable age to a later

As pointed out some decades ago by Dr Roy Walford, government finances will
benefit from this. At present people are supported or are being educated for
a period of about 15 to 20 years for a working life of 40 to 50 years. If
the working life is extended, then the value for money of the education is
also increased. In addition, government expenditure is often quite high for
care of the elderly. If the period of senescence remains the same for a
longer lifespan, this again is proportionately less. It is quite possible
that the 19th century horror stories are correct in that an artificially
extended lifespan may end with a much sorter period of senescence before
annihilation, giving a double benefit to state funding.

Some people may complain at all this saying that the purpose of their
working life is to save up for an extended retirement, leaving work in their
fifties. To them I would say that there is nothing to stop them using
regular plans of savings and investments to amass sufficient capital without
calling it "a pension" in so many words. Of course there are tax advantages
to retirement plans, but governments also introduce tax incentives for long
term savings generally. Rather than engage in pension planning, an
independent financial advisor can be consulted to produce a tax efficient
investment strategy for a young person if tax efficient pensions savings are
no longer available.

I think it is important for all people interested in life extension research
to make these points wherever possible in forums that discuss the subject.
Otherwise people in authority may get it into their heads to ban life
extension research for incorrect financial reasons.

The reference if anyone wants to quote it is page 17 of < Maximum Lifespan >
by Dr Roy L Walford, published in 1983. I have reproduced the text below,
and have also placed it (with figure) on

 The 90-year-old man of the future will have the physical vigor of a
50-year-old man of today. By substantially prolonging life span, at one
swoop we will have greatly postponed the onset of the major diseases of our
society. In this age of Degenerative and Man-made diseases, substantial
postponement is a kind of "cure"-perhaps a better and cheaper way to cure
the killer diseases than trying to pick them off one by one, as medicine is
trying to do at present. Maximum life-span extending technologies will give
as a bonus the postponement of heart disease, arthritis, cancer, diabetes,
all of them. This is the first message of Figure 1.2.

 The second message concerns the percentage of senile or debilitated people
in today's population compared to the percentage expected in a
longer-living, 140-year-maximum population. Let's assume for the sake of
illustration that everyone in the terminal hatched portions of the two
survival curves in Figure. 1.2 is senile. We see (and it is easier to see
than to say) that the hatched portion of the longer curve is a smaller
fraction of that entire curve than the hatched portion of the shorter curve
is of its curve. With prolongation of maximum life span the percentage of
persons in the total population who are senile or debilitated actually
decreases. Another pleasing and surprising result!

The effect of extension of maximum life span.

<figure cannot be included>

Effect of extension of maximum life span in modern USA and in a hypothetical
future USA on the frequency at different ages of the major diseases of aging
(P and P) and on the occurrence of feeble or senile oldsters (E and E') in
the population.

Figure 1.2
 This second message has important implications for public policy. The
social support system for the aged in the U. S. costs a staggering amount of
tax money. The way things are, it will always be increasing. Federal
programs for the elderly cost about 112 billion dollars in 1978. Even
without inflation they are expected to rise to 350 billion by the early
twenty-first century and will total something like a quarter of the nation's
entire payroll. The over-65-year-old age group will increase from
twenty-three million in 1976 to thirty-two million in the year 2000 and to
forty-five million by 2020.11 By the year 2000 there will be seventeen
million persons over 75 and five million over 85 years of age in the U. S.
alone. These population increases are predicted even without the added
prospect of significant life-span extension. Under our present system they
add up to more old-age homes, more nursing care, more subsidies, and more
money to take care of more sick, senile, and debilitated old people. As an
earlier revolutionary, V. I. Lenin, once asked in another desperate context,
"What is to be cone?"

 Our long-term efforts should be for prevention ahead of treatment. The
National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis faced a similar kind of policy
decision in the 1940s and 50s. It could have invested all its resources in
perfecting better iron lungs. If that had been the choice, we would now have
the best designed, most comfortable iron lungs imaginable, inhabited by
thousands of polio victims. Instead of iron lungs, the Foundation invested
heavily in basic research on the conquest of polio. It was certainly the
wiser decision. My point is that old-age homes and all the vast social
support structures continuously accumulating to care for the helpless aged
are the
iron lungs of gerontology. Improvements in the social, economic, and medical
support system for the elderly will merely provide symptomatic relief for an
expanding problem. Extending maximum life span will diminish the size of the

 Having understood the significance of 50 percent and maximum survival, we
can use the principles learned from studying the curves to ask questions
which will teach us how to use the principles more widely. This is a
prototype of scientific method called building understanding upon itself
(which is why the whole edifice needs occasionally to be demolished and
reconstructed, as by a Lavoisier or a Darwin . . . but that's another

R.L. Walford, 1982

Sincerely, John de Rivaz:  http://John.deRivaz.com for websites including
Cryonics Europe, Longevity Report, The Venturists, Porthtowan, Alec Harley
Reeves - inventor, Arthur Bowker - potter, de Rivaz genealogy,  Nomad .. and

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