Striving to enhance the well-being of elderly persons, the Center works collaboratively with aging network professionals, policy makers, researchers, and aging service practitioners by sharing research findings and developing new research and demonstration projects that deal with real issues.
Dr. Bill Thomas is a professor at Erickson's Center for Aging Studies. His blog is (wonderfully) titled "Changing Aging". I've not read through the entirety of Dr. Thomas's site, but I like what I've seen so far -- a lot of positive, common-sense, pro-longevity writing. Thomas suggests an interesting take on the subject of aging in a September 22 post entitled simply, "Pro-Aging":
So let's just say that I am pro-aging. I think longevity is integral to human development, much feared, little understood and a sign of success not failure.
More to the point-- every morning those of us who wake up do so one day older than we were the day before. Fine then. Let's explore this new terrain.
I've actually been uncomfortable with the phrase "anti-aging" for quite some time now. "Anti-aging" is one of those terms that seems to have been co-opted by "quack" supplement vendors and shady "immortality" prophets of various stripes. Web searches for "anti-aging" often lead to pages that contain plenty of bright, flashy slogans and glowing promises, but no solid scientific content whatsoever. And that isn't what I'm about here. My desire to promote longevity medicine and longevity in general is based on the simple premise that all people are valuable, regardless of age.
Lately, it has become apparent to me that perhaps those who consider themselves to be part of the "healthy life extension community" would do well to educate themselves about issues associated with how today's elderly persons are treated and viewed within society.
If our goal is to make it possible for people of all ages -- including the very old -- to access the care they need to maintain their health (and by extension, their life) as best as possible, a fundamental step toward that goal is that of promoting ethical, respectful treatment of older people. Regardless of what medical breakthroughs might come about within the lifetimes of those alive today, we are all getting older every day, and someday, we will all be old.
What kind of lives we lead when we are old will depend in part upon the attitudes we adopt today toward the elders that already exist. This means that yes, we all have an interest in such notions as the problems with institutional nursing. We also need to encourage efforts to improve the safety of medicine for the elderly. And we need to improve efforts toward creating a more interdependent culture, in which the contributions of diverse types and ages of persons are recognized more consistently.
So, while I understand the sentiment behind the call to "battle" the aging process, as if it were some sort of enemy, I think I actually like the notion of (in Dr. Bill Thomas's words) changing aging better. Because it's not as if I don't want people to get older -- getting older means you're living, not dying, after all!
Rather, I think that attitudes toward the elderly, both socially and in terms of what medical options are made available, need to change so that eventually, "aging" won't be synonymous in people's minds with sickness and death -- but with continued vitality and the freedom to keep enjoying the endless wonders of existence, unhindered by prejudiced attitudes and "burden" rhetoric that seeks to stamp individuals with arbitrary expiration dates.