Age gene: Do we really want to live forever?

Hands (Pic: Dino Olivieri)
Hands (Pic: Dino Olivieri)

Some readers might have noticed the headlines in science sections recently proclaiming that the white coats tucked away in some secret lab somewhere have identified and located what they believe to be the ‘age gene’.

Moreover they’ve managed to disable the gene in mice, thereby extending the critters’ lives. Eureka!

It’s an incredible discovery, opening up a veritable smorgasbord of opportunity. Moreover, it has led scientists to speculate that ageing is not the inevitable natural process of decay which we assume it is.

No, rather it would be better described as a disease which ravages us, creating the tantalising possibility that we can halt time and live biblical years on earth.

My first reaction was ‘Wow’ accompanied by a low whistle on the exhale but then I thought about it a little bit more and felt a tad uneasy.

There’s the obvious problems of over-population and such like, not withstanding the ethical dilemma of only rich people being able to pay for it (I’ve heard on good authority that Prince Charles has already out his name down for trials..,.and who can blame him?)

No, call me a cynic, and many do, but I bet you my pre-millenial boots it was a baby boomer who discovered this gene – or at least put up the research grant.

And why? Because they’ve had it so bloody good, they don’t want the party to end.

Hear me out. Since the year dot, the working classes led their lives in servitude to the ruling classes before placing their lives on the line in the Second World War.

Those who survived were lucky to live in a new social era; one in which they were cared for by the NHS before they sadly popped their mortal coil.

But their children? They had it all.

A world-renowned state education (yes, Scotland used to provide one as standard) and a university degree without being lumbered with a millstone of debt.

Any job they wanted for life, if they could do it – even sometimes if they couldn’t.

The ‘50s created ‘teenagers’, who swooned over Elvis and discovered sex, drugs and rock’n’roll.

Many got their act together and raised a family in relative security, bought their house, holidayed abroad, enjoyed free healthcare and looked forward to a jolly retirement on a final salary pension.

Or, with that impressive CV, they got another part-time job to supplement their pension – probably because they were a wee bit bored.

Hardly surprising then that many are already living to a ripe old age and, thanks to the younger generation, being looked after into the bargain.

If I were a baby boomer, I’d be signing up for eternal life too.

Those who came after – many of whom work on zero hours contracts, can’t afford to get on the housing ladder and are struggling to save for a pension they have no faith in – might think differently.

It’s one thing to stop time, another thing to extend time. And depressingly, it could be argued that, for the younger generation, we’re already turning the clock back.