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Boffins take new angle on anti-aging research

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Scientists in New York and Vienna have proposed a new way of looking at aging that they say explains why despite an aging population, people are behaving as though they are younger than their years.

All sounds fine and dandy, until you get to the bit where they explain what they actually mean. Rather than looking at age as the number of years you have already lived, look at it from the other angle: how many more years are you likely to be taking up breathing room on the planet?

As expected life spans increase, the average person could, the scientists argue, have more and more years to live as time passes. Figures published in Nature this week support this argument. In 2000, the average age in Germany was 39.9 years, and the average life span was 79.1 years. By 2050, these figures are likely to have hit 51.9 and 89 respectively. This means a 52 year-old in 2050 could expect to live almost as long as a 40 year-old in 2000.

Warren Sanderson of the University of New York in Stony Brook argues that this means people are behaving as though they are younger. "As people have more and more years to live they have to save more and plan more," he explained to Reuters.

Excuse us, but if memory serves, young people don't save their cash or plan retirement. Young people go out, get horribly drunk, shag each other and fall over. Middle-aged people worry about pensions (you should see the looks of concern whenever the word is mentioned in this office, for instance).

We are left with the uncomfortable suspicion that these scientists are either trying to redefine age so that they can lie about their own on a scientific basis, or that they were never young.

What these scientists are actually saying, is that although tempus still fugit, we know we're likely to live longer than previous generations. It is not that we are behaving as though we are younger, but as though we know we are going to get a lot older. ®

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