While human death is inevitable due to lifespan limitation, several scientists have hypothesised that aging is a disease that requires a cure. This proposition is both intriguing and promising because while it attempts to push the limits of science and medicine, it also challenges the social construct of aging.
From a sociological perspective, aging is a complicated topic. Scientists have been successful in increasing life expectancy through medical breakthroughs and without a doubt, their purpose is unquestionable. However, these same breakthroughs have created social problems because they merely delayed human death without addressing the diseases that tag along old age.
Aging creates fear. This is understandable because old age is the new face of death according to Celine Lafontaine. In her journal article, she said the fear of aging is a result of a cultural precept that emerged during the age of post-mortal society—a period that marked the beginning of modern medicine and predominance of industrialism. In this society, a young population is more sustainable because younger individuals are more viable from a socioeconomic standpoint.
It is also important to note that in an ideal society, the pattern of age distribution should follow a higher number of younger individuals than older ones. However, advances in medicine have created a demographic revolution according to Bruce C. Vladeck and James P. Firman. These advances have reshaped the pattern of age distribution resulting in older individuals outnumbering the younger ones.
A population with a higher proportions of older individuals burdens the society. In countries with aging population, economic costs are worrisome. These costs include expenses related to healthcare service and other social service, as well as workforce imbalance.
Nonetheless, although science and medicine have increased life expectancy, the fact remains that people age and this biological process would ultimately render them frail and thereby unfit to contribute to the society.
Considering aging as a disease might be tantamount to promoting the same fear that pervades in a post-mortal society. This proposition, after all, highlights the undesirable facts about growing old. However, a deeper look at this proposition could bring forth an appreciation of the ongoing scientific and medical initiatives aimed at battling aging.
If aging is indeed a disease, then there should be a cure. This cure is perhaps the missing link that could redeem science and medicine from its failure to improve quality of life despite increasing life expectancy.
A cure for aging remains farfetched. Still, it would result in people in their 60s acting as if they are in their 30s. They might partake in the workforce and they would be free from costs associated with special healthcare and social requirements. An aging population would not be a problem anymore. Furthermore, with birth planning at place, there would be true sustainability in age distribution and population demographics.
Advanced age could also mean presumed maturity of thought coupled with accumulation of experience, both of which offer value to the society. A tireless society would allow sustained or uninterrupted pursuit of scientific research or sociopolitical undertakings without the need to reeducate the younger populace.
Of course, some would argue that aging is a natural process. However, bioethicist Arthur Caplan has a sound argument. In his paper, diseases ranging from coronary atherosclerosis and cancer to tooth decays and clinical depression are nearly universal in their distribution. Furthermore, the occurrence of these diseases seem as if they are inevitable phenomenon. Diseases are thereby no different from aging. Both result in the same outcome—the impairment of normal biological function.
Further details of the study of Lafontaine are in the article “Regenerative Medicine’s Immortal Body: From the Fight against Ageing to the Extension of Longevity” published in 2009 in the journal Body & Society. Moreover, further details of the study of Vladeck and Firman are in the article “The aging of the population and health services” published in 2008 in the journal The Annals of the American Academic of Political and Social Science. More details surrounding the bioethical argument of Caplan are in the article “Death as a natural process” published in 2005 in EMBO Reports.