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ISSUE 117 VOL 8 PUBLISHED 11/14/2003

Live better, not longer

By Jenna Barke
Copy Editor

Friday, November 14, 2003

Recent medical and technological objectives focus on the extension of the human life expectancy. From the Senate Special Committee on Aging to the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine, a new scientific view of aging as a disease that can be cured or postponed has sprung up among many specialists. The Gerontological Society of America’s 2003 Annual Scientific Meeting will be held in San Diego from Nov. 21-25, during which time topics such as hormone therapy and human genomes will be discussed and analyzed for their potential to lengthen human lives.

Why has it become so important to put off aging, when our world functions and exists around cycles of time? One season must pass away for another to come in its place. Such a realization should not prompt misery, however, but rather stir hope in all of us. The knowledge that life is short is what should call people to live it. Because people are only granted so much time, they are compelled to choose their priorities and to make the most of their small, granted portion.

Waking up would hold no importance if one had unlimited mornings ahead. If time was no object, then why not leave everything for another day? What would be the impetus for doing things now? Medical extensions of life expectancies would only create citizens in a world of second chances.

Many medical advances are not concerned with extending the health associated with youth, but merely the appearance of youth. In 2002, the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery reported performing 6.9 million cosmetic procedures during the year, costing a total of 7.7 billion dollars. This number is three times the amount of cosmetic surgeries performed in 1997 (2.1 million).

Of the 6.9 million surgeries in 2002, Botox injections for facial wrinkles accounted for 1.7 million. Has it become astonishing to find wrinkles in old age? Are these natural occurences no longer expected?

Certain physical features accompany each part of life. Just as most babies are born with heads disproportionate to their bodies, most elderly people will wrinkle and turn gray. People are often admonished to act their age, but very seldom encouraged to look it. Everyone has the right to change their appearance as they choose, but why has our society pushed aging into the realm of “things that shouldn’t happen” until age 70 or 80?

In a Nov. 3 article, Newsweek columnist Robert J. Samuelson noted that “middle age, which once arrived in the mid-30s or early 40s, has been pushed back well beyond 50 or even 60.” Growing old is a responsibility that no one wants to accept. It seems that our society wants the impossible: to live forever without growing old. Many people want medicine and science to accomplish this for them, but most seem to miss a glaringly important point: instead of spending time making the lives they have longer, why not do all they can now with the lives that they have?

Copy Editor Jenna Barke is a sophomore from Roseville, Minn. She majors in English.

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