Delaying Aging and Extending Life – An Ancient Dream Revisited
Watts-Roy, Diane M. “Delaying Aging and Extending Life – An Ancient Dream Revisited ”. PhD, Boston College, 2008. http://hdl.handle.net/2345/1370.
The desire to defy the aging process and to prolong the lifespan has long captured the human imagination. Recognized as one of the most ancient known pieces of literature, the Epic of Gilgamesh documents a King’s quest to find immortality. More recent examples include the story of Ponce de Leon’s 16th century search to discover the Fountain of Youth, Sir Francis Bacon’s (1659) assertion that humans are naturally immortal “potens non mori,” and Benjamin Franklin’s desire to be preserved in a vat of madeira until science is capable of life extension. Developments in science and technology, including telomere manipulation, genetic engineering, cloning, nanotechnology, the potential to create new organs from stem cells, and the creation of therapeutic pharmaceuticals that could significantly postpone disease, have served to inspire; aging in the 21st century is no longer regarded by scientists as an inevitable process programmed by evolution (Olshansky et al. 2006). Situated within a detailed historical overview, this qualitative research project explores the experiences of individuals engaged in practices currently implicated in potentially delaying aging and even extending life. Based on information from 44 in-depth interviews, this research explores issues such as lay understandings of the biology of aging, conceptualizations of the inner body, the use of and experience with optimization technologies, and the embodied effects of participation in anti-aging and life-extension body regimens.