24 January 2019

Live up to 150. And why?

Philosophers before biologists should answer the key question about longevity

Rossiyskaya Gazeta Text: Irina Krasnopolskaya, Ksenia Kolesnikova, Yuri Medvedev, Elena Novoselova, Elena Yakovleva.

Last Sunday, the oldest man on the planet died in Japan at the age of 113. He was ranked 30th in the ranking of world centenarians. And in Kabardino-Balkaria, at the age of 129, leaving the world 8 children, 19 grandchildren, 33 great-grandchildren and seven great-great-grandchildren, the oldest resident of Russia died.

Scientists and futurologists are increasingly talking about increasing human life – the figures are 120 and 150 years.

Live to 120! But how and why? This question is answered by experts of "RG": chief gerontologist of St. Petersburg, Corresponding Member of the Russian Academy of Sciences Vladimir Havinson, Doctor of Philological and Biological Sciences, Head of the Laboratory of Cognitive Research of St. Petersburg State University Tatiana Chernihiv, Candidate of Psychological Sciences Olga Makhovskaya, Candidate of Sociological Sciences Dmitry Rogozin, famous writer Evgeny Vodolazkin, head of the direction "Virtual and augmented Reality, gamification technologies" of the IT cluster of the Skolkovo Foundation Alexey Kalenchuk.

The age of 120-150 years as a matter of course – is it a dream or a reality?

Olga Makhovskaya: "Life up to 150" is not the most radical idea yet. After the release of the popular book by Israeli scientist Yuval Noah Harari "Homo Deus", which predicted an endless life for all of us due to organ replacement, many are gripped by the belief that a person will live ... forever. This, of course, is a provocative idea, this will not happen for a long time. But attempts to introduce a kind of "youth chip" are being actively undertaken. No one wants to look old, decrepit and unattractive, and the rejuvenation boom that began a long time ago has turned into a tough and very expensive industry.

And what do the numbers say?

Vladimir Khavinson: Currently there are more than 1,000 people in the world aged 110-114 years. The average age of people in economically developed countries is 75-85 years. And this indicator continues to increase. Which, of course, pleases. Humanity has entered the stage of globalization of aging. The number of older people is increasing every year. The upper limit of human life is 110-120 years. But against this background, of course, it is important to preserve people's ability to work for as long as possible: in the future, up to 80-90 years or more.

Tatiana Chernihiv: Biologically, life can be prolonged. But the question is, how is a person going to live these extra 40 years? What will he do? Children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren have grown up. The point is not that a certain biological substrate should continue to exist, but that this life should be active and meaningful, that there should be some kind of goal in it. Therefore, now the problem is formulated as follows: for the sake of what this life should be continued? If a person lies like an eggplant for 40 years, terrifying both himself and his relatives and society, then why is this necessary?

Dmitry Rogozin: Let's not look at the very old as ourselves. Young people usually dream of active activity for them. But at the age of 130, they don't work on a lathe and don't write books. For a long–lived person, a huge activity is 50 meters traveled around the house.

Yes, among the centenarians there are people who, like Daniil Granin, write novels or articles to the last, but these are still units.

Real old age – and it begins with 80-85 years – is a special period of human life. At this age, a person often cannot do without outside help – he cannot eat on his own, go to the toilet, turn over on the bed. Individual successes fade into the background, a person becomes fragile. He has a greater demand for sociality, for public care and public care. And in such cases it is necessary to help not only him, but also those who take care of him.

But even such a person is still not a vegetable. His life in this state can be full, although in a different way. For a full-fledged life, the elderly first of all need an "accessible environment", and not so much outside as inside the house. The typical layout of our bathrooms, for example, makes the living environment absolutely inaccessible for people over 85. To fix this, you don't need a lot of investment, rather, a little common sense when redeveloping housing.

For me, it's okay, even if a deep old age is accompanied by deep forms of dementia. In the world, it is already possible to observe examples of a full life and people with dementia, with Alzheimer's. And we should think about it.

If we talk about the purpose of old age, then this is the time to be yourself. This is a special assembly and understanding of yourself. These resources are not available to us at another age, where we solve other tasks.

Tatiana Chernihiv: I think that a long life is actually an existential problem. Yes, life needs to be extended in a working condition, but not in order to work at 100, but in order to finish and think out what is important for yourself. And this is a problem not only for biologists, but also for humanitarians, in particular philosophers.

Is it boring for old people to live?

In the novels of Evgeny Vodolazkin, one of the heroes is time. It is then unusually reversed, then strangely prolonged.

Evgeny Vodolazkin: It seems to me that the real length of a human life is determined not by the amount of time spent, but by its internal intensity. Medieval people lived much less than modern people in terms of duration, but at the same time their life was extremely full, because it grew in depth, not in breadth or length.

Let's compare two people of the XXI century. One lives high in the mountains, and the other, for example, in St. Petersburg. The first 120 years sees the same thing: 120 identical springs and winters. If you don't think much about what is happening around you, you can live for five hundred and twenty, or a thousand and twenty years, and it won't change anything especially in your worldview. And from the point of view of experience, it is unlikely to add anything. It is important to realize that the mechanical chronological prolongation of life does not make life more valuable even for the person himself. Not always, but often a person passes away when he gets tired of living.

Is it really possible to get tired of life?

Tatiana Chernihiv: I sincerely cannot imagine the situation of "boring to live" for myself. When I look at the books in my house, a certain part of which I will never have time to read, it even causes me some kind of irritation. I think I will be in the best spaces for a long time, and they will still be standing here, not read by me. I don't understand how it can be boring in this world.

But I have come across very elderly people who were in their right mind, solid memory and not that very sick, but they were tired of living. That's what they said: "I'm sick of it! I already know everything, I'm bored, I don't want to live anymore!"

Is it physical or psychological fatigue?

Evgeny Vodolazkin: In my novel "Laurel", the hero sees a very old man in front of him, in whose eyes there is nothing left. And he asks him: "Do you want to live, older?" And in response: "I want to die!"

It is not uncommon for elderly people to have this desire. A person feels tired of life, as young people feel tired at the end of the day. Someone at the age of 95 suddenly saw something that he had not realized before. But there are few of them. It must be understood that a person has limits not only physical, but also spiritual and psychological. It's much more difficult to push them away.

In my last novel, Brisbane, a lot is said about the length of life, because the hero gets sick and ceases to exist as a musician. At the end of the novel there is his dialogue with a monk who suddenly tells him: "You were just thinking that you have no future!". The monk guessed right. The musician asks: "Are you a clairvoyant?"–"No, just a seer. Don't worry about the future, because there is no future. This is just our fantasy. Just a guess. The future comes in the form of the present... Live in the present." Isn't that a useful tip? If a person has not had time to say something to the world, God gives him such an opportunity and time through his prayers. God is merciful.

Dmitry Rogozin: Older people have much more deceased interlocutors than living ones, and their life differs even from life up to 80: it is more turned to the past and, indeed, the reality of the present is greatly expanded in it.

If we think about the spiritual and psychological end of a person, which gives rise to a feeling of boredom of life and fatigue from it, then what would we not want to live without?

Evgeny Vodolazkin: I would not like to live without memory… Because memory is baggage. And the one who loses it, and this, unfortunately, is not a rare phenomenon towards the end of life, looks like a passenger who was left at an unfamiliar station without a suitcase: life is rushing nearby, other people's trains are approaching the platforms, and he is restless, in wonderful clothes, and everything has gone somewhere, including a toothbrush. Sad state.

Memory is one of the main pleasures available to a person in old age. In addition, she can be selective and "serve" only pleasant dishes ...

Evgeny Vodolazkin: Yes, memory is the reverse of the machine. After all, this car is not only moving forward. At some point, it rests on something, and then it turns out that the way back is open, that life goes not only from childhood to old age, but also from old age to childhood. And you begin to resurrect life-giving pictures, to comprehend them sometimes for the first time. After all, the event is not meaningful, as if it did not happen. And you can also read those important books that have not yet been able to read. The rhythm of life is frenzied and many are not up to reading. And when a person goes to old age to read, he opens fantastically good books. After all, this is also an enrichment of experience, and very important.

Tatiana Chernihiv: As for memory and advice "learn poems by heart", then you need to start this story not when 90 years happened, but earlier. Since childhood, a person should live a full, bustling life, read a lot, watch complex films, listen to complex music, go to museums, communicate with interesting people. How to do this if he does not live in a big city and does not belong to the intellectual elite? After all, many are not accustomed to going to the conservatory. It is necessary to cultivate such interests in people, no matter where they live. You can also read smart books and watch good movies over the Internet.

And learning poetry is a must! The more the brain works, the better it is qualitatively, physically. The neural network itself is better if it works. It's just like muscles. If you lie on the couch, then you won't be able to get up later. The brain is exactly the same story: if you read only shampoo labels in your youth, there is nothing to complain about in old age.

Time of deferred life

What is the main problem of today's Russian old people and prestariks?

Olga Makhovskaya: In addition to everyday and social problems, the topic of "delayed life" is acute for our elderly. This generation postponed all the joys for old age, and now it is ready to change life – from suffering and survival to entertainment and pleasure. Sometimes old women in teenage clothes seem ridiculous to us and strange old men pumping their abs and transferring to scooters. But such old men sometimes leave home, finally deciding to afford what they did not allow in their youth.

There are many desires of a person to be happy, and, unfortunately, they cannot be realized at the same time. You can't marry three women, you can't be an astronaut and a ballerina at the same time. You have to choose.

And in old age, a person from dissatisfaction with previous elections may begin a radical revision of his life and the choice of a new perspective – a kind of attempt to be reborn. But such a change of fate requires a lot of resources. We must soberly assess our capabilities. I think that one of the causes of cardiovascular diseases - heart attack, stroke – especially in men, is connected with the overestimation of their capabilities when starting a new life.

It's much safer to start a new business. If your previous job did not bring you satisfaction, you can try the "backup option" rejected in your youth – to take up photography, painting, feasible dancing, sports walking, traveling, swimming. It will bring pleasure, which is so important in old age.

And experts who study happiness at one age or another say that the happiest people are at the age of 80+. And not because they have fewer requests and the prospect is small. But because old people are less offended, more happy. Long life has taught them to refuse and laugh.

And they are often more energetic than the young. The young are greedy for everything and do not give energy to anyone, do not enter into resonant relationships. And the resonance of two people is love. And not necessarily men and women, but also people of different ages, professions, skin color. Sometimes a superficial resonance is also important, like a joint tea party. So old people, in addition to the joy of pleasure and impressions, have a very important skill – to be happy for others.

I think that one of the serious future directions of studying adulthood is the psychology of energy distribution. The old people have it more perfect.

Eternal Eros

What happens in old age with love. Anastasia Tsvetaeva has a surprisingly beautiful and true description of the mutual love experienced by an elderly woman for a man 25 years younger. And there are no reverse examples at all.

Olga Makhovskaya: Eros does not disappear in old age. He is generally eternal. I observe a lot of couples of different ages, which show how people are attracted to each other. At the same time, a woman can be 20-30 years older than a man. But, apparently, a man needs her experience and support. And the way they communicate, hold hands, look into each other's eyes, betrays a very deep and important attachment and interest for both. Professional cooperation, communication of neighbors, and correspondence of people who have never met can be erotically colored. Eros is beautiful because it can dress up in different clothes, camouflage, sublimate. For me, eros is synonymous with life.

Dmitry Rogozin: Our research shows that even in old age it is extremely important to have an intimate partner. Intimacy doesn't go anywhere at 90, it just takes on other forms. It is necessary to discard giggling about the erection of old men, intimacy is wider than that. This is literal intimacy, this is an opportunity to hug, this is attention to your body, the need to take a shower. In the meantime, we often observe the opposite situation: in old age, a person is shy of his body, drives himself into a corner, begins to wash 2-3 times less often. In general, in order to live actively and for a long time, you need to love someone.

According to the results of our research, even beloved and caring children do not replace "partners" for the elderly. For them, a "guest marriage" is better than a child living nearby and caring for you. It is the partner who kills loneliness.

Talking about death prolongs life

Love and death are inseparable, as the poets said three millennia ago. Should old people avoid thoughts of death?

Dmitry Rogozin: I will express a paradoxical thought for our everyday consciousness: longevity should be associated with preparation for death. In a happy old age, the topic of death is articulated, it is possible and necessary to talk about it with relatives, close people, social workers, neighbors, friends. It does not overturn into depression and does not demotivate a person to live. It is the absence of such conversations that demotivates, and thinking about death prolongs life. You can often hear from 50-60 year olds: I want to die in my sleep. But you need to die consciously, meaningfully. And that's what longevity is aimed at.

In old age, religiosity usually increases, because religion provides a language for talking about death. We record in every study: when relatives refuse to talk about "how will you bury me?" and they answer "stop it, you will live for a long time", this causes even greater depression. Because a taboo is imposed on the most important topic for a person.

The main thing in old age is freedom of choice

After all, we often perceive old age as living out. What does it take to change this image?

Olga Makhovskaya: In order for life in old age not to turn into living out, it must be filled with communication. It is a source of energy, comfort, support. By the way, women live longer precisely because they communicate more. So no isolation! Grow flowers, get cats – the need to take care of them will give strength and a good self-esteem "I'm nothing yet". Both a neighbor in need of help and a friend who needs to go to the other end of the city are important…

Dmitry Rogozin: An old man is a homo society. Simply because in a different way he will die because of the fragility of his own and the world. He can't do it alone.

Yes, our research confirms Evgeny Vodolazkin's idea that people live longer in large cities than in mountain villages. This is due to the developed infrastructure, good medicine. And the thought of Tatiana Chernihiv that people with higher education engaged in intellectual activity have a lower risk of dementia and a greater likelihood of active aging. But, in my opinion, the main factor of good longevity is not the metropolis and intelligence, but freedom of choice and the ability to remain a person of choice. Making a decision.

Seeing the fragility of an elderly person, we usually try to take him under care. All the state rhetoric is about this: to protect, to support. But a person must choose and make decisions until the end of his life.  Decisions determine his taste for life.

Human life is like a marathon. In the final part of the race, hardly anyone, if you offer it to him, will agree to run the distance again. And not because I'm tired, but because there's no point. After all, the last "section of life" is all aimed at getting back to yourself. The aesthetics of aging is to finish a person in yourself. All life is a way to yourself. And there are no more important steps than the last ones.

Evgeny Vodolazkin: As a writer, I am very interested in old age. This is a productive period. He may be less bright in his social manifestations, less creative, as they like to say now, but in his personal development it is in old age that people understand the main thing.

What do you need for longevity?

Vladimir Khavinson: We need a system of measures to prevent premature aging, increase the life resource of a person. Scientific developments in the diagnosis, prevention and correction of age-related disorders are important.

7 tips from Vladimir Havinson

1. The desire to be healthy and the desire for longevity implies the absence of bad habits: smoking, alcohol, physical inactivity;

2. It is necessary to observe biorhythms. It is necessary to go to bed before 12 o'clock at night. This contributes to the production of melatonin in the epiphysis of the brain;

3. Calorie restriction: approximately 20-25% due to fats and carbohydrates;

4. Systematic performance of any physical exercises without intense exertion. For example, swimming, cycling, walking (5-10 thousand steps per day);

5. Conducting a systematic medical examination: at least once a year;

6. The use of modern medical technologies and drugs for the prevention and correction of pathologies in consultation with the attending physician;

7. Systematic use of a complex of peptide bioregulators to increase the resource of the body also in consultation with the attending physician.

Virtual Old Age

Alexey Kalenchuk, Head of Virtual and Augmented Reality, Gamification Technologies, IT Cluster of the Skolkovo Foundation:

According to statistics, more than 60 percent of Russian residents and more than 80 in some European countries today regularly play games: on phones, tablets, in social networks, on consoles and personal computers. At least once a week, but they immerse themselves in the digital world of entertainment: someone grows vegetables on a virtual farm, and someone fights on the side of the elves in a multiplayer online game.

What will all these people do when they reach the age of 120? As today our grandparents "hang out" in front of the TV, so the people of the future will "hang out", but in virtual reality.

"We could serve in intelligence, we could play in a movie..." is not just a phrase from a song. This is the real future that awaits us in old age. Visit distant planets or visit Machu Picchu, feel like a hero of your favorite action-packed series or talk show. All this will be available thanks to the full immersion effect that virtual reality (VR) provides.

What is it? VR technology allows us to deceive a person's senses, to make him believe that he is in another reality. Exactly the one that the computer will draw. Because vision is the main channel for us to receive information. If our eyes broadcast a fictional world to us, we tend to believe them, even though all other senses tell us the opposite.

Experiments are also underway to simulate not only the visual image, but also the corresponding smells. You put on a helmet and go, for example, to the coast of your favorite sea: you not only see it in all its details, but also feel a light salty breeze. Or you go up to the Alps – there is fresh mountain air and the smell of a blooming meadow... This opportunity will be especially important for people who will not be able to travel due to age, health condition or for other reasons.

There is another plus of technology – it becomes more and more perfect every year and at the same time cheaper. Already today, a full-fledged VR helmet costs about $ 200. And the time spent in virtual reality, comfortable for a person, is about 60 minutes and will increase. For comparison, a year and a half ago it was only about 15 minutes.

I think in a few years VR helmets will turn into quite comfortable special glasses. They will allow a person not only to travel to real and unreal places, but also to play many roles, to experience the brightest moments through the eyes of the protagonist. In online games, in movies, where there are several options for the development of the plot, and you choose where to "turn" ... 100 percent immersion is provided. That is, in fact, in virtual reality, a person will be able to live a completely new, amazing life. And not even one. At least in 100 years, at least in 120.

But entertainment is not all that VR technology allows. In virtual reality, you can already get a new profession today. For example, the largest American company Walmart in December last year purchased 17 thousand virtual reality helmets to train employees of its stores to work with new equipment. Educational VR programs for universities and schools are being actively developed. For example, virtual chemical laboratories. For the elderly, such training courses will certainly also appear – it will be possible to get a third, fifth, tenth profession. The longer the life, the more opportunities. Moreover, there will be professions for which the VR helmet will be the main tool. It will be possible to study and work in virtuality, for example, in the following areas: content creation, social communications, various services.

Again, there are real examples of transferring the business world to the virtual one. Facebook and Oculus hold VR conferences for developers and IT specialists. You put on a helmet, choose an avatar for yourself – a virtual character who will represent you – and you get into the hall right on the first row. Surrounded by other virtual visitors, you watch Mark Zuckerberg and other top managers talk about new VR products. You can chat with "neighbors", discuss a new project, while being on different hemispheres. Concerts, film screenings, and sports matches are already broadcast on the same principle. What is especially interesting is that the avatar you create can be of any age and appearance. That is, for the elderly, this is an opportunity to feel young to some extent.

And one more important aspect. One way or another, longevity is associated with increased attention to health, sometimes with certain health problems. And here virtual reality can also become a good "helper". VR training allows people to recover more effectively after injuries and strokes. This has already been proven experimentally. It has also been proven that virtual reality can effectively distract patients from real pain during medical procedures. You can be on the battlefield or walking around Mars while, for example, you are getting a series of injections.

So that the picture "drawn" by Sergey Lukyanenko in his novels on Deeptown (deep – depth, town – city) – a virtual city into which you are immersed – can really become a reality in the future. The only aspect that is fundamentally unrealizable today is the imitation of food. The VR helmet has not yet learned how to transmit any taste to our brain. Nevertheless, VR today is the most promising technology of human-computer interaction. The next step is a direct neural interface connected to the human brain. But no one knows when it will be implemented yet.


Avatar Time

Alexander Kaplan, Professor at Moscow State University, psychophysiologist, founder of Russia's first laboratory for the research and development of neurointerfaces:

Can a person become immortal? In 2013, at the Global Future conference in New York, this issue was announced in the international project "Avatar", its organizer was a young Russian businessman Dmitry Itskov. The project's consultants were not only Russian, but also well-known foreign scientists, such as Theodore Berger, creator of brain prosthetics technology at the University of Southern California, Ed Boyden, professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Raymond Kurzweil, Director of Technical Development at Google Corporation, Stuart Hameroff, professor at the University of Arizona, Hiroshi Ishiguro, director of the Center for Robotics in Osaka.

The authors of the project of limitless prolongation of human life proposed not a new means of Macropoulos, not the secrets of the immortality of worms-planaria and not even a super diet, but quite real achievements of neurotechnology and computer technology. Tens of millions of people already live among us with artificial hip and knee prostheses, implanted pacemakers, and even with electrodes embedded in the brain to stop epilepsy attacks and treat Parkinson's disease. The gradual replacement of failing human organs with their artificial counterparts seems quite real in the coming decades.
Is it possible to get a completely artificial body in this way, which will exist until the spare parts run out? Here, science already has impressive achievements. For example, the world was struck by the biorobot Rex, which cost only a million dollars. It consists of almost 70 percent of artificial organs of the human body. Rex contains all the achievements of the best specialists from different fields of science. In this mechanical phenomenon there are artificial ears, face, eyes, heart, kidneys, spleen, pancreas, trachea, arms and legs.

Of course, this is not yet a living person, but it is already a demonstration of the possibility of assembling it from artificial organs. The main problem is how to "overwrite" the contents of the brain to a new medium. In my opinion, it will not be possible to solve it, if only because it is impossible to decipher the codes of information communication of 86 billion nerve cells of the brain. However, in an artificial body, the natural brain can be left by combining it with artificial organs through interfaces. Which is quite real. For example, in 2012, two US laboratories presented to the world completely paralyzed patients with electrical activity sensors implanted in the brain, according to which neurointerface algorithms deciphered a person's intentions to perform various actions. These "transcripts" were then broadcast– to an artificial cybernetic arm. With its help, patients were able to bring a container of drinks to their mouth with an effort of thought, take the necessary items from the table.

Now, for purely logistical and organizational reasons, the Avatar project has been suspended. But given the interest it has aroused in society and the scientific community, I think that to some extent this or another project to restore an active human life will be implemented. Hundreds of millions of people with preserved brain activity will be able to return to full-fledged communication and feasible work for many years due to the inclusion of neurointerface support systems. By and large, we are interesting to each other and to ourselves not so much with the physical body, but with thoughts and feelings, memory, and our personality. With a healthy brain, all this can be preserved much longer than the life of individual organs, if only the brain is allowed to act even with a paralyzed body.


Even in ancient times, when a 30-year-old was considered an old man, scientists were distinguished by longevity. For example, the famous philosopher Democritus lived 80 years, and Plato 81 years. The great Newton passed away at the age of 85. Interesting statistics among Nobel Prize laureates. As they get older, they get older. A hundred years ago, the average age of the laureates was no more than 40 years, and today it is 71 years. The record holder was last year's laureate Arthur Ashkin, who turned 96 in the year of the award. Among the ten Nobel centenarians, Vitaly Ginzburg, who was awarded the prize at 87, at the same age, Raymond Davis Jr., Joseph Rotblat, Karl von Frisch, Ferdinand Buisson (86), Christian Theodor (85), John Fenn (85), Peter Kapitsa (84), Peter Higgs (84), William Knowles (84). Many laureates of the prestigious award have far exceeded the average age, for example, Louis de Broglie lived 94 years, Max Planck 89 years, Nikolai Semenov – 90, Peter Kapitsa – 89. Zhores Alferov, who was awarded the prize in 2000, is now 88 years old. The famous academician Boris Paton turned 100 last year, the famous mathematician Sergei Nikolsky, who passed away at the age of 107, worked actively until his last days.

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