Ageing is not one process but a combination and concurrence of several. Some of its components amount to wear and tear and accumulated damage: toxic, radiational, and mechanical. Others are the late effects of genes that have vital roles in development¹. Some amount to the accumulated effect of ongoing maintenance processes that are only optimised for an evolutionarily normal lifespan². Therefore no single³ treatment is likely to halt or long delay ageing. A battery of different treatments for different ageing processes will be required, and these will require close tailoring to the individual’s idiosyncracy and metabolic history.
In Flat Black routine high-tech medical care, combined with sensible diet⁴, sufficient exercise or pharmacological substitutes for it, and a battery of treatments specifically tailored to the individual, result in the rich and most inhabitants of high-development societies ageing
- gracefully, like those fit and healthy non-drug-abusing movie stars who have still got it at sixty, and for the same reason, but
- at half that rate after the age of twenty, because of the anti-aging treatments.
That is, people commonly look as young, and are as spry, at the age of one hundred, as Racquel Welch was in Legally Blonde; at 120, they look as young as Ted Danson in The Good Place.
Average life expectancy in the high-dev colonies is 140–150. The leading cause of death is voluntary euthanasia: suicide to escape the prospect of a horribly protracted senility. PCs in one of my adventures met a wealthy woman who was 227 years old (and very decrepit). Retirement age is often eighty to one hundred — in the Imperial Service it is 110, for Imperial Councillors and Paramount Court judges, 120. That means that careers can be very long and that in most organisations promotion is slow.
People in many cultures are not set up to tolerate spending more than about fifteen or twenty years doing the same thing. It is common (but not universal), for people to persist in an occupation bot fifteen to twenty years and then re-train and change jobs or specialities, or seek some other substantial change in their work. Some societies are used to couples⁵ splitting up after a similar term, just because one or both is bored or needs a change.
¹ A nice example for this principle is the gene that causes Huntingdon’s chorea in humans. This increases fecundity in young people who are affected, but causes a nasty and fatal neurological condition in later life (usually middle age or later). We probably have many genes that code for vital processes of life or development, which we cannot develop or live without, but which have expressions in late life that are part of the syndrome of ageing. Removing or disabling the genes is not a solution; replacing them with immortalising rival alleles is not simple.
² One of the causes of the loss of accommodating power in the focussing systems of the human eye (presbyopia) is thought to be that the process that maintains the lens by continually re-surfacing it changes the shape of the rim of the lens, like rounding off a sharp edge with an accumulation of layers of paint. This alters the angle at which the zonules of Zinn attach to the crystalline lens, reducing the effect of the ciliary muscles in changing the shape of the lens.
³ Though some treatments might have surprising wide effects, such as the control of chronic inflammation and the eradication of Chlamydia pneumoniae.
⁴ Best practice is to leave your portion control in the hands of an adaptive digital assistant, and choose items that it puts near the top of the menu.
⁵ Or whatever marriage-like, familial, and cohabiting groups they have instead. On New Fujian a family group consists of a married couple and an apprentice, each in different life-stages, their ages staged by about 10–12 years. When the older spouse is ready to advance to the post-marital (héshang) stage of life, it is usual for the other two each to advance one grade — then they commonly marry each other and take on a new apprentice in the instar stage.