How will society be shaped by this field of science? The ramifications are vast.
Because the FDA does not currently consider aging itself a disease, the approved uses in the next 10 years will be restricted to very specific conditions. Nevertheless, the word will get out that these interventions might have a universal benefit. Their off-label use will produce a highly charged debate as patient advocacy groups clamor for their “right to try.” As always is the case, the supplement industry will cash in, touting their precursor or building block’s miracle effects.
In the meantime, the benefits of plasma transfusion will mean 25 “blood vacations” at medical spas will be popular. It could also lead to “blood farms,” where young people in poor countries get their blood harvested for use abroad. But the likelihood for corruption in that kind of system is huge. The research to create synthetic blood will accelerate—scientists have already figured out how to make red blood stem cells fly past their normal 50,000 production limit.
If the FDA removes black box warnings on any treatments, such as TIMP2 or NAD+, we will see an explosion of clinics offering antiaging solutions. Their use will be elective and not covered by insurance, exacerbating the gap between rich and poor that has already widened considerably since the 1970s.
Young working couples will no longer feel like they are in a race against time, trying to advance their careers and bear children before they are too old. Parents will be confident they can use assisted reproductive technology to have children later. Orthopedic stem cell technology will mean they can coach the kids’ little league soccer teams as 60-somethings. Knowing they can keep working longer and afford more children, the birth rate for high-income families will go up, while the birth rate for low-income families will go down.
Older professional athletes are certain. Golf and tennis more so than other sports, because cognitive control under pressure is most critical in those contests. Triggering the ability to regrow cartilage or heal muscle damage faster won’t be considered “doping.” Better fitness regimens have already put us on this path. In 1990, half the women tennis players in the year-end Top 10 were teenagers during that season. Currently, there are only three teenagers in the Top 100.
Rather than retiring, waves of people will consider a full career change at midlife—including going back to school—because they know they’ll live far longer. Many colleges will create branches in urban centers focused on adult reeducation degrees. And because the aged often face age discrimination, we will celebrate start-ups that are committed to hiring these self-remade graduates.
It will bankrupt Social Security, but not Medicare. When Social Security was created, in 1935, life expectancy was only 62. The number of people over age 65 will balloon. But this won’t hurt Medicare, and in fact it will help it— because people over 65 will have a lot less heart disease, diabetes, cancer and Alzheimer’s.
Three- and four-generation households will become far more common, because we won’t need to send the grandparents to assisted living centers where medical treatment is on site. They’ll be healthy enough far longer. Real estate developers will need to take this into account. Grandparents will become an even more common solution to childcare for working couples, and “grandparent quality” will become a bigger factor in choosing a marital partner. Reducing the stress of marriage will lower the divorce rate when children are still at home.