Ageing is “optional” if certain lifestyle factors can be controlled, and there is an emerging economy for people living longer, the Milken Institute’s Middle East and Africa summit in Abu Dhabi heard on Tuesday.
"We say we are increasing the 'healthspan' not just the lifespan. So people have more years in life but those years are healthier and more productive and fulfilling," Nora Super, director of the Centre for the Future of Ageing at the Milken Institute, told The National.
By 2030, more people worldwide will be over the age of 60 than under 10, according to Milken, a US think tank.
Meanwhile, experiments over the last few years to test the body’s ‘epigenetic clock’, which tracks a person’s biological age, have been shown to slow down or reverse when given certain medications and hormones, or when the test subjects were able to reduce stress through meditation.
The combination of shifting demographics and recent breakthroughs in our understanding of ageing and longevity represent both a massive challenge and opportunity in the 21st century.
Dr Deepak Chopra, founder of the Chopra Centre and a wellness expert, said that over the past two decades, scientists had begun to more widely accept that ageing was more like a disease that can be cured rather than an inevitability.
“No gene has evolved to cause ageing. No one dies of old age,” he said at the conference.
Dr Chopra said the idea of well-being and longevity could be achieved by following seven pillars: sound sleep, meditation, physical activity, emotion moderation, plant-based nutrition, time outdoors and self-awareness.
Through the Chopra Centre, he said he was working to identify biomarkers to measure the effects these practices had on a person’s ageing process.
Dr Chopra is 73 years old but he claims his epigenetic clock is nearly half that after following 30 years of daily meditation and walking at least 10,000 steps.
“As we move into the future, we should be able to create these new algorithms that correlate biometrics to well-being,” he said.
In addition to working on measuring the effect of anti-ageing practices on the body, Dr Chopra is working on a project called ‘Digital Deepak’, an artificial intelligence based on his writings and teachings.
The AI “is still a baby” under development, he said, but would be rolled out later this year.
"If we don't adapt to technology, we become irrelevant," he told The National.
Dave Asprey, founder of Bulletproof Coffee, who wrote a book on longevity, said mankind's "current best" was 120 years old - a number he said he hoped to beat.
Mr Asprey, a former technology company executive, said he believed “if I can hack the internet, I can hack this [ageing issue]” and admitted to investing at least $1 million in his efforts.
By prolonging life and increasing well-being, he said, there was a return on investment measured by time.
“When we imagine ageing, we imagine being old and that’s not a pretty sight: wheelchairs, you can’t remember your own name, incontinence,” he said. "But these are solvable, hackable problems."