On Quora I read a rather stupid question, to which I gave a short, pithy answer.  The question was ‘Can we live to be 200 years old?’.  My answer was ‘Yes, if you’re a tortoise.’

It’s a known fact that tortoises can live to this great age.  However, humans are not so fortunate.  But then again, would you be fortunate if you could?  All our relatives might have pre-deceased us, and at the rate our bodies age we would probably spend our second century confined to bed or going from a bed to a chair.  Care homes are closing every day, and the ones that are still going are full up.  Gaining a care home bed means waiting for its former occupant to die, but if nobody’s dying, then we’re going to have a long wait!  Also the amount of old people in society would outweigh the young.  Can you imagine the stress the councils would come under to provide carers and ‘resources’ to the millions of bed-bound 150 year olds?

As a kid I was always fascinated by Olivia Hussey’s character in the film ‘Lost Horizon’, who was 200 years old but looked 25 so long as she stayed in Shangri-La.  As soon as she ventured out into the real world, she turned into a 200 year old pile of dust.

So therefore what we need is a real-life Shangri-La.  This I think can only become reality after much scientific research into the DNA of healthy centenarians and how to identify and turn off the ageing gene.  Some lucky people stay healthy into their nineties, but if all people on medications stopped taking them, then I think the average lifespan would probably shorten again to around 55 – 60.  Tablets to regulate blood pressure, cholesterol, heart beats, blood sugar etc. are all keeping us alive, but do nothing about our ageing cells.

I think the hibernation process that tortoises go through also helps them to live longer, but unfortunately we’re not programmed to sleep away the dark winter days and go without food and water for months on end.  I think whoever cracks the ageing nut is going to be a very rich person indeed, and a very popular one.

Would you want to live to be 200?  At this point in our evolution I don’t think it would be a good idea, so ask me again in 500 years’ time if I’m still around!