Healthy Life Extension
How Much Does Aging Cost You?
Dear Future Centenarian,
We get hammered with two costs of aging. One is acutely felt. The other not so.
The most painful is the direct drain on our pocketbooks when we or a family member loses earning power “ or incurs sudden and often stratospheric medical expenses due to aging-related diseases or conditions.
Let's explore this one first:
Over 30% of people over 80 get Alzheimer's. It's close to 50% by 85. Reason, editor at FightAging.org gives some figures from a recent paper on dementia in the US:
"The yearly monetary cost per person that was attributable to dementia was either $56,290 (95% confidence interval [CI], $42,746 to $69,834) or $41,689 (95% CI, $31,017 to $52,362), depending on the method used to value informal care."
However, these figures are based on "informal care." How about when you factor in full-time home caregivers or formal nursing home costs? I'm familiar with both, since I lost my dad to Alzheimer's. I was lucky enough to keep him home, looked after 24 hours a day by a loving couple. But I saw some nursing home cost figures years ago, and they were astronomical.
How about lost income due to aging?
Reason dug up figures for that as well. He found that median income sits somewhere a little under $40,000/year in the prime earning years of life. It tapers off to a little more than half of that for surviving members of the 75 (median) and older demographic who have not yet become demented.
So while one of seven completely median older people incurs costs of roughly $40,000/year for dementia, all seven completely median older people suffer an opportunity cost of roughly $20,000/year as a result of becoming old. A range of income that might have been earned if still healthy and vigorous is no longer within reach.
Then add other direct medical costs for the rest of the population - cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and the other common foes - the opportunity costs of being old still look sizable in comparison.
Then how about the cost to society? We don't notice that so much, because governments camouflage our individual costs through taxation spread over the whole population, Medicare costs and inflationary measures which sweep costs under the rug while steadily eroding your purchasing power.
The total monetary cost of dementia alone in 2010 was between $157 billion and $215 billion. When you factor in heart disease and cancer, we're up to around $600 billion a year.
It would take more research to factor in lost wages and all the other aging-related diseases and conditions medical expenses. Arthritis, diabetes, pneumonia, etc, etc. Then when one dies, that spells the end of all future earning power, not to mention the indirect costs when their wisdom, innovation knowledge and experience suddenly evaporate.
As Reason again points out, aging causes a largely unseen cost to go along with what is seen, the cost of what might have been but for disability and death.
The cost of research and development to build the means of rejuvenation is tiny in comparison to what is lost to aging - and also in comparison to what is spent in coping with the aftermath of loss rather than trying to prevent it.
Latest Headlines from Fight Aging!
The Present State of Artificial Retinas - Friday, May 10, 2013
Retinal implants that can provide a crude substitute for vision in some forms of blindness are a work in progress at this time, but the path ahead seems fairly clear:
The State of Electromechanical and Bioartifical Organs - Friday, May 10, 2013
An article on the development of prosthetic organs, a field that continues to provide competition for regenerative medicine:
Insights into Inflammaging - Thursday, May 9, 2013
In later years the immune system falls into a malfunctioning state of overactivation and ineffectiveness, generating damaging chronic inflammation while at the same time failing to defend against pathogens and destroy damaged cells.
The Complement System and Rheumatoid Arthritis - Thursday, May 9, 2013
Autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis are one of the few remaining classes of condition where little can be done for many sufferers at this time, and where researchers still know comparatively little about specific causative mechanisms.
The most effective treatments are based on suppressing the immune system rather than addressing root causes, and even those are hit and miss. Meanwhile here is one of the signs that this may all be changing in the years ahead, as modern tools allow a greater understanding and ability to manipulate facets of the immune system:
More on Life Extension and Entitlements - Wednesday, May 8, 2013
To go along with yesterday's post on the economic disaster of entitlements, here's another piece from someone who sees this as a defining issue in which longevity is important.
Yet even if life spans were not increasing and even without the prospect of radical life extension in the near future, states would still be on a path to eventual collapse through growth in entitlements, forced transfers of wealth, and the accompanying corruption that arises with the centralization of power. This is the historical outcome resulting from the growth of a state in its late stages, even in periods of history without ongoing increases in life expectancy.
UV Light, Nitric Oxide, and Blood Pressure - Wednesday, May 8, 2013
Nitric oxide levels show up in a range of mechanisms linked to aging and general health, in particular those to do with blood vessel function.
Here is an interesting study that may or may not be examining an example of hormesis, a beneficial response to very minor levels of damage caused by UV light, such as that in sunlight:
Aging, and the Cure of the Diseases of Aging - Tuesday, May 7, 2013
An essay on the causes of aging and what we might do to prevent them can be found at the SENS Research Foundation outreach blog:
Towards a Patch for Damaged Hearts - Tuesday, May 7, 2013
Progress is noted in the techniques needed to build functional heart tissue:
Evidence Against an Influence of Mitochondrial DNA Haplotypes on Human Longevity - Monday, May 6, 2013
A range of studies suggest that variations in mitochondrial DNA influence human longevity, which is what we'd expect given the mass of evidence for the importance of mitochondria DNA damage in aging, and the role of mitochondrial function in many age-related diseases.
Here, however, is a study showing no statistically identifiable effects resulting from different mitochondrial DNA haplotypes in the old:
Reversing Hair Grayness By Suppressing Oxidative Stress - Monday, May 6, 2013
The graying of hair with increasing age is an early sign of increased oxidative stress in skin tissues around hair follicles. Researchers here demonstrate that it can be locally reversed by an antioxidant-based strategy.
This shouldn't be taken to indicate that antioxidants are of general utility: the researchers are carefully augmenting the role of a specific natural antioxidant enzyme in an intricate chemical process, not just picking any random antioxidant and throwing it into the mix.