PUMPING IRONY: This Idea Makes Me Sick

If a proposal by gerontology researchers is accepted by the World Health Organization, we’ll all soon be officially classified as terminally ill.

Aging

Geezers are used to being marginalized and manipulated by the medical-pharmaceutical complex, so nothing issuing from the halls of aging research really surprises me anymore. That is, until I stumbled last week upon an article from the Biogerontology Research Foundation that suggests, in all seriousness, that it’s time for the World Health Organization to officially classify aging as a disease.

Excuse me?

Apparently, the folks at BRF are marshaling their arguments in preparation for the debate over WHO’s 11th International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (also known as ICD), set to be released in 2018. The ICD plays a major role in research funding, insurance coverage, and general public health policy making. Getting aging onto that list of maladies, according BRF’s chief science officer, Alex Zhavoronkov, PhD, would help ramp up the next generation of anti-aging research.

“A more granular classification of aging as a disease with a set of ‘non-garbage’ ICD disease codes will help put it in the spotlight and help attract resources to accelerate research,” Zhavoronkov said in a statement. “Also, like with any disease, acceptance of the disease is the first step to treatment.”

So, if I’m understanding this correctly: If WHO buys into this silliness, you and I and everyone else on the planet will begin to be seen by the medical-pharmaceutical complex as suffering from a disease. (We begin aging, after all, as soon as we are born.) This, of course, plays nicely into the already prevailing notion that everyone needs a little bit of medical tinkering. I can already imagine the TV commercials: “Feeling a little out of sorts? Wondering what happened to all that get-up-and-go you used to have? You may be suffering from aging. Ask your doctor about . . .”

The real illness, or shall I say delusion, at work here is the idea that aging is something to be cured rather than something to embrace and even celebrate. I know that’s a bit much to expect from our youth-obsessed, pill-popping culture, but even leaving that aside, it just doesn’t seem to be a great idea to promote the notion that we’re all suddenly sick — terminally ill, actually.

I’m an optimistic guy, though, so I’m going to assume that Zhavoronkov and his well-intentioned colleagues at BRF will fall short in their efforts to make us all sick in 2018. Let’s hope so, anyway. I’ve never been any good about sending get-well cards.

, an Experience Life deputy editor, explores the joys and challenges of aging well.

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