The Longevity Movement Building
There is now an emerging international social advocacy movement dedicated to promotion of biomedical research and development to alleviate aging-related morbidity and improve healthy longevity for the elderly population. It is commonly referred to by the activists as the “longevity movement” or “longevity research and advocacy movement.” It is a “hybrid” between the aged rights advocacy and science advocacy, as it emphasizes the need to improve health care for the elderly around the world via enhanced medical scientific research around the world. The movement is only emerging, and is not yet strongly related to other forms of health care advocacy. But a stronger relation is hoped for. The movement is also not well organized or coordinated. Many groups are united by the idea of the need to improve healthy longevity thanks to increasing biomedical research in the field of aging and aging-related diseases. But the actions of each group and even of each individual activist in the movement are mostly independent and autonomous.1 In practice, every activist group and even every individual activist, considers the possibilities at hand – and acts accordingly autonomously. The actions may include publications, meetings, social media promotions, support of particular research projects, also by fundraising, sometimes involving “crowd-funding” and “crowd-sourcing.” Some higher level advocacy initiatives were undertaken, such as the “Longevity Dividend” initiative (US, since around 2006),2 the efforts to lobby for biomedical aging research in the US congress (2016),3 the effort to emphasize the need to strengthen biomedical research of aging at the WHO Consultation on the Global Strategy and Action Plan on Aging and Health (GSAP) in October 2015,4 or the advocacy for the “Law Proposal for the Establishment of the National Advisory Committee for the Promotion of Longevity and Quality of Life for the Elderly Population” in Israel (ongoing since July 2012).5
The main types of activities that are being organized by various groups mostly include:
1) Organizing live and online meetings and study groups, and 2) Writing and distributing advocacy and popular scientific texts – including in national languages (websites, articles, petitions, blog posts, flyers, media press releases, etc.). And the methods of their organization can be summarized as simple as the following: 1) An individual activist just thinks what he or she can organize personally in his/her area and invites friends among longevity activists to think what they can organize together, 2) The activists write and distribute texts and appeals.
The main message of these actions is also rather simple: “Increase support for biomedical research of aging to improve healthy longevity.” Yet it can be scaled to almost any dimensions, from a local meeting of friends to international campaigns. The main message implies the realization that biomedical interventions into degenerative aging processes can provide the best foundations for combating aging-related ill health and for attaining healthy longevity. Yet, not enough is known about these processes and their countermeasures to provide truly effective means of combat. Hence “More Research is Needed!” This simple realization and the wish to induce this realization in others, have proven to give enough motivation for longevity research activists to step up to participate in actions, study groups and campaigns. It should be noted that the vast majority of the groups and activities so far have been entirely voluntary.
Diverse materials have been included in discussion, distribution and promotion, that could be taken from ready made resources.6 Among many other resources, the position paper by the International Society on Aging and Disease (ISOAD) on the “Critical need to promote research of aging and aging-related diseases to improve health and longevity of the elderly population” briefly describes the rationales, technologies and policies needed to promote this research. The position paper has been translated by activists and is now available in 12 languages: with full texts in 9 languages and partial translations in 3 more languages. It has served as a “universal advocacy paper” both for the grass roots discussions and promotions and for the outreach to officials in several countries.7 Also some frequently asked questions and topics of discussion on longevity research promotion, regarding both scientific and social aspects, have been summarized.8
Even though the activities are mostly autonomous, several concerted international actions, dedicated to the promotion of biomedical and biological research of aging and longevity, have been undertaken by various groups of advocates. The method of organization was straightforward – personally contacting known longevity research activists and leaders and consulting with them about what events and promotions they could organize personally as a part of the joint international action toward specific dates. The importance of taking personal responsibility for the organization and personal contacts cannot be overestimated. Massive “calls to action” are virtually useless as compared to personal engagement!
Some of the concerted actions, involving longevity activists groups from several countries, included the “Future of Longevity” campaign around the “Future Day” on March 1, 20139 and the “Metchnikoff Day” – around May 15, 2015, in honor of the anniversary of the founder of gerontology – Elie Metchnikoff.10 Yet, perhaps the most successful and wide-reaching was the so-called “International Longevity Day” campaign, which has been organized since 2013, around October 1 – the UN “International Day of Older Persons.”11
Perhaps unintentionally, “the day of older persons” may appear value-neutral and indifferent toward the “older persons,” while the “longevity day,” celebrating and aspiring to healthy longevity for all, may be more uplifting. Yet, as this is the officially recognized “UN International Day of Older Persons,” this has provided the longevity research activists a perfect opportunity, perhaps even a perfect “excuse,” to emphasize the importance of aging and longevity research for the development of effective health care for the elderly, in the wide public as well as among decision makers.
This campaign has a bit of a history. In 2013, events during or around that day – ranging from small meetings of friends to seminars and rather large conferences, alongside special publications, distributions of outreach materials (petitions and flyers) and media appearances – were held in over 30 countries, and in 2014 in over 20 countries.11
In 2015, record participation was attained with meetings and promotions held in over 40 countries, with outreach materials (videos, newsletters, social media) reaching out to hundreds of thousands of people. Dozens of organizations participated in the campaign. The support ranged from small emerging local groups of activists to authoritative scientific societies and associations, including the endorsements and promotions at the sites of such global organizations as the International Federation on Ageing (IFA), International Association of Gerontology and Geriatrics (IAGG), Healthspan Campaign, International Society on Aging and Disease (ISOAD) and others.
In 2016, while keeping the “longevity day” concept as would be desirable to particular groups and activists, an additional emphasis was placed on organizing the longevity promotion events through the entire month of October in the framework of “The Longevity Month” – as usually the “longevity day” events spread through the entire month. Promoting various “commemorative months” to support particular advocacy issues has been a well established and effective practice, and a dedicated “month” could give people more flexibility and space to organize events and publications. The extent of the campaign in 2016 was less than in 2015, with events and promotions held in over 20 countries.11 This might have been at least partly due to the ebbs and flows of personal and communal enthusiasm and availability that should be always kept in consideration. Generally, the impact of any campaign ultimately depends on the strength of involvement of every individual activist, for every event and every publication of the campaign.
Despite their still rather limited extents, such campaigns may be considered as exercises for the longevity movement building. They provided a demonstration that massive grass roots actions for biomedical research of aging are possible. Yet, much remains to be aspired to even begin to think of approaching the level of public involvement and influence that has been achieved by the campaigns of other movements, such as the “green movement,” or other forms of health advocacy. Hopefully, the movement for healthy longevity through scientific research may gradually approach such levels. Hopefully also, this fledging movement will become a truly integral and involved part of the global health movement.
References and notes
- “Groups,” Longevity for All, 2017, http://www.longevityforall.org/groups/;
“Network of anti-aging organizations,” Reddit Longevity, 2017, https://www.reddit.com/r/longevity/comments/5xl8dh/map_of_all_antiaging_organizations_i_could_find/.
- S. Jay Olshansky, Daniel Perry, Richard A. Miller, Robert N. Butler, “In Pursuit of the Longevity Dividend: What Should We Be Doing To Prepare for the Unprecedented Aging of Humanity?”The Scientist, 20(3), 28-36, March 1, 2006,http://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/23191/;
Pursuing the Longevity Dividend. Scientific Goals for an Aging World, September 12, 2006, including a full list of the campaign signatories: http://www.longevityforall.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/Longevity_Dividend_Signatories.pdf.)
- “Ask Congress to Fund the First FDA-Approved Drug Trial to Prevent Cancer and Other Diseases of Aging,” Global Healthspan Policy Institute, February 24, 2016, https://healthspanpolicy.org/metformin-campaign/; http://tame.healthspanpolicy.org/;
“The New Age of Aging,” Global Healthspan Policy Institute, March 2017, https://healthspanpolicy.org/the-new-age-of-aging/; http://www.longevityforall.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/The-new-age-of-aging.pdf .
- “WHO consultation on the Global Strategy and Action Plan on Ageing and Health,” Longevity for All, October 22, 2015, http://www.longevityforall.org/who-consultation-on-the-global-strategy-and-action-plan-on-ageing-and-health/;
“ILA position with respect to WHO’s Global Strategy and Action Plan on Ageing and Health,” International Longevity Alliance, October 23, 2015, http://longevityalliance.org/?q=ila-position-respect-who-s-global-strategy-and-action-plan-ageing-and-health.
- “Law Proposal for the Establishment of the National Advisory Committee for the Promotion of Longevity and Quality of Life for the Elderly Population,” Israeli Longevity Alliance, http://www.longevityisrael.org/longevity-bill.html;
Ilia Stambler, “Political struggle against the disease of aging,” Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies (IEET), July 17, 2012, https://ieet.org/index.php/IEET2/more/stambler201207171;
Ilia Stambler, “Longevity research program is established in Israel,” IEET, September 10, 2014,
- “Resources,” Longevity for All, 2017, http://www.longevityforall.org/resources/.
- Kunlin Jin, James W. Simpkins, Xunming Ji, Miriam Leis, Ilia Stambler, “The critical need to promote research of aging and aging-related diseases to improve health and longevity of the elderly population,” Aging and Disease, 6, 1-5, 2015, http://www.aginganddisease.org/EN/10.14336/AD.2014.1210.
The text is available in full in Arabic, Chinese, English, German, Hebrew, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, and as a partial (summary) translation in Danish, Finnish, Swedish: http://www.longevityforall.org/the-critical-need-to-promote-research-of-aging-around-the-world/.
- “Frequently asked questions about life extension,” Longevity For All, 2017, http://www.longevityforall.org/faq-of-the-ethics-of-lifespan-and-healthspan-extension/.
- Ilia Stambler, “For the Future of Longevity – Celebrating longevity on the international ‘Future Day’ March 1, 2013,” International Longevity Alliance, http://longevityalliance.org/?q=future-longevity; http://www.longevityforall.org/future-day-march-1-2013-theme-longevity/.
- Ilia Stambler, “The 170th anniversary of Elie Metchnikoff – the founder of gerontology, May 15, 2015,” Longevity for All, http://www.longevityforall.org/170th-anniversary-of-elie-metchnikoff-the-founder-of-gerontology-may-15-2015/; http://hplusmagazine.com/2015/05/06/may-15-2015-170th-anniversary-of-elie-metchnikoff-the-founder-of-gerontology-an-opportunity-to-promote-aging-and-longevity-research/.
- Ilia Stambler, “International Longevity Day – October 1” (2013, 2014, 2015, 2016)