Written by Frank Cotolo
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Topics: Science, Scientists

Tuesday, 25 October 2005

image for People are living longer and science doesn't know why
A snapshot of the oldest man alive, 114, seen here reading the headline of this story.

BERVIEW HILLS, Okla. - Scientists are baffled now that there are over estimated 70,000 Americans who are 100-years-old or older. And more and more people are expected to become centenarians, especially if they don't die before they reach 100. The number is expected to grow to 241,000 by 2020. And scientists are baffled.

"Old people should be dieing," said Professor Ernst Willbucket. "Especially the ones still eating red meat and smoking in their 90s. We just don't know what is happening."

Hoards of scientists are probing the secrets of longevity, hoping to come up with something about today's centenarians that will help find ways to extend the human life span. Millionaires have offered millions for an answer and billionaires have offered billions.

"People are sick of dieing," said scientist Morrie Ryebread. "They feel that things will be too uncomfortable without existence. People would rather live to be 100 or older, even if it means having to buy a whole new wardrobe."

Medical advances over the past century have allowed the average person to live decades longer than people in other centuries. If scientific advances continue, scientists say they can push the envelope of human life far past 100. But they don't know how just yet.

"I think drugs alone will do it," said scientist Elmore Billytango. "We need some mega-medicines. We need a serum that can go right to a man's prostate and make it hard as a rock. We need a serum that can go right to the brain and force it to think it is alive when it wants to shut down. Things like that."

But all of the people today living to 100 or more today say they can't help scientists find any special secret to longevity.

"I smoke, drink, eat a pound of sugar a day and put egg yolks in everything I eat," said Rick Wombat, 104. "Been that way since I was four. Never been sick a day in my life except for that cancer I had when I was 20. But that went away after I was bitten by a rattlesnake and someone sucked out the poison. By golly, I think they sucked out the cancer too."

In a poll taken recently, most Americans said they don't want to live to be so old that they cannot wash their armpits without help.

If researchers could make it possible to live to 120, other Americans said they would accept that. However, most worry that they'll become unable to use a bow and arrow or have problems running.

"Old age," said Wally Bengorian Stuntwater, who is 111, "isn't so bad if you can still run at a decent speed."

Research suggests that the older a person becomes, the less that person can do physically. "We studied a lot of mice," said scientist Earl "The Pearl" Steinbutton, "and when we put them on the edge of starvation, it pushes their life span to an extreme. So we believe that if we starve people as they are becoming older, giving them less and less food, they may react like mice and live longer, if only to prove they don't need food."

Other advances on the horizon include playing with genetic materials to protect people from heart disease and other age-related killers. Still, some researchers say, there is no way to stop a centenarian from becoming dead if struck by a two-ton truck.

A scientist at the University of Utah said he believes people are living longer because of their chromosomes. Unavailable for comment, the scientist said, "They might hold the same key to human longevity that a steak sauce holds to the taste of a good grilled piece of cow meat."

Throughout history, humans have yearned for an elixir that would keep them young forever. Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon discovered Florida in 1513 as he searched for the Fountain of Youth, a place where the water was said to make one live forever as a young person. But de Leon never found it and legend writes that Florida was there all along and didn't need to be found by de Leon. Today, old people flock to Florida knowing there is no Fountain of Youth and that the humidity alone could kill them.

But the scientific community feels that it can find the modern-day version of the Fountain of Youth, even if there is nothing they can do to stop the humidity in Florida. But so far, the answer remains elusive.

"A baby born today has a 50-percent chance of living to about 80," says Larry Hayfire, a researcher on aging. "Or is that an 80-percent chance of living to about 50?"

"Just don't count on an anti-aging pill anytime soon," said Dr. Emile Smallarm. "Eat your vegetables. Go outside and play. Especially if you make it to 80. Then play some more and the next thing you know you will be 90and then you are looking 100 right in the eye."

"Most people really do want to live forever," said Floyd Farmnose, a geriatrics expert at the Eternally Yours Cooperative in Seattle and co-author of a book on living forever. "But most people just want to live just long enough to see the new screen version of King Kong."

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