Can humans live to 150 years? Is it even desirable?
These are the issues debated between some of the world's foremost experts and some of Australia's oldest citizens at the second international conference "Living to 100" organized by the Center for Healthy Brain Aging (CHeBA) in Sydney this weekend. week.
Professor Peter Schofield is the executive director of Neuroscience Research Australia (NeuRA) and has been studying the brain for decades.
He believes it is plausible that humans will one day reach the age of 150 years.
"The things that may allow us to conceive that humans will live to be 150 years old will probably have to be quite innovative – they probably need things like potential gene therapies, drug therapies," he told SBS News on Saturday.
But the UNSW neuropsychiatry professor, Perminder Sachdev, is not so optimistic, even if some studies in animals have shown that life can be prolonged through diet, genetic manipulation and drugs.
"I think that in humans this will be much more complex," said Professor Sachdev.
"We know that in the last thousands of years maximum human life has not really increased much, and even in the last 30 or 40 years, there have been many medical advances and we know that more and more people live between the ages of 80 and 90. – and also more than 100 – but the maximum life expectancy has not increased, "said Professor Sachdev.
"So I'm not really optimistic that we're going to make a massive change to maximum human life," he said.
However, according to Professor Sachdev, it is possible that more people will arrive at a more advanced age and in a healthier state.
"We want to increase the health maximum more than the maximum lifetime," added Professor Sachdev.
"Living healthier for a longer period of time is really the holy grail, I think," he said.
In 2012, there were a little over 420 thousand people aged 85 or older in Australia.
According to the top projections of the Australian Bureau of Statistics, that will more than double in the two decades until 2031.
Then double again for 2045. And again for 2069.
Personality could be the key to a longer life
What experts agree on is that there are common lifestyle factors that are key to becoming centenarians apart from a person's genetics.
These include good nutrition that includes unprocessed foods, physical activity and staying socially engaged.
"What we are realizing is that these common factors are related not only to genetics, but also to the lifestyle of people," said Professor Sachdev.
"We are also discovering that there may be some personality factors that can be very important to achieve a very old and well-lived age of success," he added.
The personality traits linked to a longer life are awareness and optimism, according to Professor Sachdev.
"We see these people at the age of 90 or 95 and even 100 who participate in social activities, who are making a positive contribution to others and generally have a lower level of anxiety, a lower level of what we call neuroticism , they do not react to stimuli excessively, and they seem to handle stress more flexibly, they seem to recover from the many stresses they experience throughout life. "
What do the centenarians say?
For Eileen Kramer, 103, dancing has been the key to her longevity.
"I dance, I dance for life," said Mrs. Kramer.
Tom Sample, who grew up in the city of Newcastle in New South Wales and lived in Warragamba in western Sydney for many years, has not yet reached 100 years, but is close.
At the age of 97, he credits a loving marriage and sports for his long life.
"I was married for 66 years, I lost my wife about three years ago," Mr. Sample said.
"Being such a loving couple helped me in my long life that I now enjoy," he said.