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Would You Visit the One-Stop Anti-Aging Shop?

An expert envisions a future of ever-younger people seeking ever-riskier treatments

By Margaret Morganroth Gullette

“Anti-aging” medicine is a fantasy.

Probably the most longed-for pharmaceutical intervention in history, an omnibus anti-frailty pill, “is not on the horizon,” aging expert Dr. Muriel Gillick of Harvard Medical School has written. Such a drug is not even conceivable. In a report from The Hastings Center, a bioethics and public research institute, a group of leading gerontologists affirm that “no currently marketed intervention — none — has yet been proved to slow, stop or reverse human aging, and some can be downright dangerous," such as unregulated supplements consumers are persuaded to use in place of effective medical treatments. But the marketers whom the institute labels "clinical entrepreneurs" continue to "exaggerate the state of scientific knowledge" to redefine more of us as "defective, abnormal or inferior" in the rush to push their products.

It is not difficult to envision the following scenario in a matter of years:

What could make this fictional Juvenilandia a reality, aside from the economic pressures to appear youthful in the workplace? The groundwork laid by a culture that sees aging-past-youth as little but a set of diseases. Lacking an actual miracle potion, anti-aging flacks exaggerate the state of their scientific knowledge and play on our dreams of permanent avoidance of old age. Shilling for them, the media announce far-off concepts as thrilling, breaking news. And so more useless, more dangerous choices become available every day to those of us who don’t read the fine print. 
 
We're absorbing a DIY mentality about our bodies, ignoring established medical sense to chase the preposterous goal of remodeling ourselves to compete with younger people who will, after all, age past youth soon enough in their turn.

If more of us join that imagined picket line outside Juvenilandia, protesting the vicious truncation of the human life course, we could close it down. Grab a sign.
 

Margaret Morganroth Gullette is the author of  the prize-winning book, "Ending Ageism, or How Not to Shoot Old People," and a Resident Scholar at the Women's Studies Research Center, Brandeis University. Gullette is writing a new book, "American Eldercide, How It Happened, How to Prevent It." Read More
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