The elixir of life

14555-youth_newsWill the proteins in a young person’s blood partially reverse dementia in an older person? Research on mice has implied this possibility. However, with ethical dilemmas and the risk of unintended side effects, the prospects are uncertain. Such is the demand to improve the conditions under which we age that all sorts of novel therapies are being investigated. The young may find their blood to be an increasingly valuable asset.

We are all concerned with how well we age. Naturally we keep an eye on what might keep us alert and active for as long as possible. If an injection of some substance or another could help, then we are likely to take the jab.

However, aside from this elusive pursuit of an ‘elixir of life’, there yet remain some effective steps we can all take. The UK-based health think tank, the Kings Fund, declares: ‘the corrosive effect of the lack of community and networks on the health of older people (is) a bigger risk factor for health for this group than either moderate tobacco smoking or obesity’.

Responding to this epidemiological trend, the organisation Campaign to End Loneliness aims to improve public and voluntary services to strengthen these social networks. Research suggests that this will improve both mobility and mental acuity amongst those that participate. But with populations around the world ageing swiftly, can we sustain a socioeconomic model of paying people to offer care to the elderly?

And so here comes the simple, yet equally elusive answer. The young can keep their blood to themselves yet still have a wonderfully healthy impact on the elderly. They just need to get involved in the lives of their ageing neighbours. Naturally, the elderly themselves can take steps to be neighbourly to one another as well.

As we consider successive breakthroughs in biomedical treatments, we should remind ourselves of the simple, proven value of relationships. Surely these are the true ‘elixir of life’.

To add further basis for this argument, try the following:

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