Are we headed for a one percent phenomenon in longevity?

A: No question that the financial adviser needs to be more customer-centric – that is what people want. They want a more holistic discussion and they want to be able to trust you,  because it’s not just some investments that they are putting under your authority, it’s their life.

Q: Back to your point about longevity – tell me more about what you see coming in terms of distribution of longevity. it obviously won’t be the same for everyone. and also, what do you see as the implications are for the economy? What are the big takeaways from greater longevity?

We had a pretty interesting 20th century – public health,sanitation, antibiotics, anesthesiology so we could do more complicated surgery, refrigeration that allowed us to move and store foods, and that changed diets. And pharmaceuticals. What happened is that more people were spared the misfortune of dying young. More got to live to be middle-aged and old. But we’ve also extended the dying process. We are living longer and dying longer. Now, people can live with terrible diseases, and we keep them alive without much quality of life in many cases. We’ve got lifespan but we haven’t done a great job of making healthspan match up with lifespan. That is both miserable and unbelievably costly – and frightening.

I think there will be a more substantial attempt to extend the healthy years, whether through fitness, pharmaceuticals, stem cells, genetic manipulation or prevention. And I think our entire healthcare system is way off base. We don’t have geriatric competence – we have a lot of illness and misery and cost.

Q: There’s a big shortage of healthcare professionals trained for geriatrics, right?

A: forget about people who are full-on geriatricians. Eighty percent of doctors and nurses who graduate this decade from medical and nursing school will not have taken one elective in geriatrics. I’m not saying they should all  be geriatricians but the aging patient presents more complicated issues with regard to polypharmacy, diagnosis and all sorts of things.

We are about to fall into a sinkhole of Alzheimer’s that will be the end of the 21st century, because of our rising longevity.The dementia rate over age 85 is 47 percent. So if we just keep living longer but we don’t knock this horrible disease out, it will be the sinkhole of the century. It will take us down – every country. It will be a horror beyond horrors. And how much do we spend against this disease? Hardly anything.

So, if we could focus more attention on creating a healthier version of longevity, that would be grand. Life expectancy has gone up at birth about two years every decade since the 1900s. Do I think that is likely to continue? I do. And it will be because not so much of the infant and childhood side but because of improvements in helping adults be healthy longer. that’s the reasonable model.

Q: Do you see that kind of change emerging?

A: The talent migrating into the field is like nothing I’ve seen in my 40 years in the field, and they’re convinced there is nothing you can’t do if you can turn biotechnology into information technology. “There will be breakthroughs in the next 15 or 20 years that will have to do with aging itself – actually stopping the biological clock,” says Dychtwald. “And I think that really rich people are going to get access to it, people who are willing to spend almost unlimited sums of money. Imagine a time when ten thousand really rich people get to live forever, or not have to get dementia.” [Examples cited by Dychtwald include Craig Venter, one of the first scientists to sequence the human genome, who launched a company last year called Human Longevity Inc that plans to apply genetic sequencing to some of the most challenging issues involving aging, and Calico, a company focused on extending lifespans, was launched by Google Inc in 2013. There is also big money chasing longevity from the Facebook Inc, eBay Inc and Napster fortunes.]

And I think that really rich people are going to get access to these breakthroughs. Imagine a time when 10,000 really wealthy people get to live forever. or, get to not have dementia, or get their vision back.

Perhaps 20 years ago, I spoke to a group of Fortune 100 chairmen. I asked them, ‘If you were 80 and looked in the mirror and didn’t like what you saw, and weren’t feeling so good and you heard that I had some kind of technology that could allow you to look and feel and physically like you were 40 again. what percent of your net worth would you spend?” These were wealthy guys – my guess is they had average net worth of $50 million. Ninety percent was the response I got. And when I asked them to explain that to me, they said, “If you are 80 and you have a lot of money but you’re hurting and falling apart and losing your mind it doesn’t matter how much money you have. But if I can get my youth back, I can make that money back in a few years. And even if i don’t, who cares?”

And there is work going on right now that could change the game entirely – overnight. But I don’t think the benefits will be distributed evenly.



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