Human lives might be long enough already

Susan Golden, another panelist and the director of the dciX innovation program at Stanford University, noted that shifting this system would require changing how the medical profession is structured. “It would be better if we had primary-care physicians as our navigators,” she said. “In England, primary-care providers are paid more than specialists, and that’s a good idea. It puts prevention up front and embeds it into the system.”

Golden said that if people are living longer lives, maintaining their health in the long term will require an emphasis on healthy habits starting in childhood. She also noted that it will require the political will to dismantle the structural disparities that impact the health of people of color and those living in poverty.

Olshansky expects to see major advances in increasing the American health span within his lifetime. “I’m extremely optimistic that the science has now caught up with the idea that we can modify our own biology and slow down the process of biological aging,” he said. “Not for the purpose of making us live longer, but for the purpose of extending the period of healthy life.”