S.N. Austad

The Preamble to the Constitution of the World Health Organization states that "the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health is one of the fundamental rights of every human being?." From that perspective, one might expect exceptional public enthusiasm and support for research into medically-induced longer, healthier human life. However, such enthusiasm and support has been marginal, especially compared to the much greater support and enthusiasm for medical research campaigns against specific late-life diseases such as cancer and diabetes. Social and political obstacles to greater support for senescence-retarding research have some unacknowledged roots in social valuation of the elderly compared to the young, as well as acknowledged concerns about utilitarian issues surrounding extending life. A further obstacle has been brought about by the highly publicized yet unwarranted claims of existing so-called anti-aging treatments, leading either to true-belief in such treatments making further research unnecessary, or to skepticism about the entire research enterprise. Keys to overcoming these obstacles lie in public education with respect to distinguishing legitimate from bogus scientific research and in pointing out how subtle attitudes toward the elderly influence public opinion.