June 17, 2010

Marcela Sanchez: A Better Option for Aging

By Marcela Sanchez

I just returned from an extended trip to see my parents in Colombia.  Their health has deteriorated this last year and by the time I arrived my father was in the hospital looking extremely thin and having difficulty breathing.  As he puts it, in nine months he went from feeling 60 to turning 80.

My mother meanwhile is coping with her own ailing health caused by arthritis and degenerative osteoarthritis combined with an unhealthy dose of defeatism and depression.  Her mind is still as sharp and quick as ever but her body is unable to respond as it used to — she cannot take a walk more than a few blocks nor open a bottle of water.  “I wish for you to never get old,” she told me repeatedly.

Every time she uttered that phrase, I wondered what kind of desire is that?  Are my options to die early or discover the Fountain of Youth?  It was yet another of my mother’s wishes I could not satisfy.

By odd coincidence, while my parents and I obsessed over their infirmities, I received a review copy of a new documentary by filmmaker Robert Kane Pappas, “To Age or Not to Age”, which opens next month in New York City. The film tells the story of a group of molecular biologists that began exploring the seemingly inescapable causes of aging some 20 years ago.  It describes in particular the work of Professor Lenny Guarente and the students in his lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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