- Medical professionals and researchers have a suspicion that a medicine called metformin could be the key to combating aging.
- If healthy older people remain in the workforce longer, they could continue to make money, thus relieving pressure on health care and entitlement programs, or they could drain social security benefits.
- The concept of prolonging life has been one of the age-old questions; with new anti-aging meds, extremely robust AI, and digital currencies, we just might be on the cusp of entering a sci-fi-esque reality.
If humans could live longer, what would this mean for the future of work, and the workforce?
We may not have to ask this question for much longer.
More and more medical professionals and researchers have a suspicion that a medicine costing just five dollars a month — developed from a compound discovered more than a century ago in the common French lilac — could be the key to combating aging.
The drug, called , has some interesting effects on metabolism, cells, and the way our bodies defend against viruses. The drug has so far shown anti-aging effects on mice, roundworms, and fruit flies.
This drug might help humans to age slower because it can potentially delay the onset of cancer, cognitive decline and vision loss in seniors. Studies show that metformin can delay stem-cell aging, promote autophagy and prevent telomere shortening — all of which help combat the effects of aging. This remarkable drug also safeguards against processes that lead to disease, such as oxidative stress.
The other revolutionary part? It won’t just be millionaire tech magnates who can afford this drug; anyone could take it.
Silicon Valley is heavily investing in a future where humans age slower
Aside from metformin, many other similar drugs are in the works, and they could be on the market by 2028, according to the Daily Mail.
American entrepreneurs are showing serious interest in such a possibility. Billionaire Sam Altman put $180 million into biotech startup Retro BioScience last month. He is the latest of many Silicon Valley billionaires to fund the science of anti-aging.
Recently, Amazon creator Jeff Bezos was reported to have invested $3 billion in the life-extension company Altos Labs. PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel has also invested in the Methuselah Foundation, which says it is a “non-profit medical charity focused on extending the healthy human lifespan by making 90 the new 50 by 2030.”
What impact would anti-aging meds have on the future of work?
If these innovative treatments mean our workforce is healthier and living longer, it most likely means people would need to work longer. What would this mean for the economy? What would this phenomenon mean for the future of work? Perhaps the most jarring question is: What would this mean for the age of retirement — will the U.S. benchmark of 65 no longer be feasible?
These are all questions that are difficult to address. Adjusting a set retirement age is a touchy, politically risky and divisive topic, as laid bare by the revolt in France against President Emmanuel Macron’s legislation that would raise the age of retirement just two years — from 62 to 64.
While the full repercussions of a longer-living workforce are still to be imagined, the idea of prolonging human life using anti-aging drugs has been tossed around for years.
NBC article discussed the topic: “For most people, living longer will inevitably mean more time spent working. Careers will necessarily become longer, and the retirement age will have to be pushed back, not only so individuals can support themselves, but to avoid overtaxing a nation’s social security system,” wrote Ker Than. “Advocates of anti-aging research say that working longer might not be such a bad thing. With skilled workers remaining in the workforce longer, economic productivity would go up.”
Bioethicist Daniel Callahan, a co-founder of the Hastings Center in New York said in the same article that “if this could ever happen, then we’d better ask what kind of society we want to get. We had better not go anywhere near it until we have figured those problems out.”
It is certainly too soon to tell what significant impact these types of medications will have on society long-term. But, there are two options, each with wide-reaching implications if the workforce enters this longer-worklife reality:
- If healthy older people remain in the workforce longer, they could continue to make money, thus relieving pressure on health care and entitlement programs.
- If healthy older people don’t want to work, and still plan to retire in their 60s, then they might collect social security benefits, which would unbalance and drain these benefits for future generations.
The effects of these medications are endless — both positive and negative — and responses to their implications for workers will need to be carefully considered by individual governments.
What would an anti-aging medication mean for workplace policies and wellness initatives?
The wellness of the world’s workforces is vastly important to consider. As of late, workers and employers are both beginning to realize the importance of prioritizing wellness at work, and in many places changes are finally being made.
From the allowance of remote work to trials of the four-day work week, workplace wellness and work-life balance are on the road to improvement. It’s in employers’ best interest for their workers to live long and healthy lives.
For America especially, metformin and drugs like it could seriously improve quality of life. In the U.S., life expectancy at birth is the lowest among the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries, accompanied by the highest maternal and infant mortality rates, the highest death rates due to preventable or treatable illnesses, and an obesity rate twice as high as the OECD average, according to Fortune.
Perhaps in the future, organizations may even cover the costs of these anti-aging medications. Companies would certainly need to reevaluate health benefit offerings as the workforce ages. Will benefit plans in the future be priced by age tiers, like life insurance rates are now? Would the plan be less expensive for employees under age 60? Would the rate bump up again if a worker reaches the age of 75? Would a plan need to be created for family coverage that includes more generations?
Office accessibility issues will also come into question when the age range of those workers using an office widens. Beyond that, employee recognition and retention programs would also likely need to be overhauled, including PTO policies where tenure often impacts the amount of time awarded.
Finding ways to prolong life has been one of the age-old quests. With new anti-aging meds, extremely robust AI, and digital currencies, we just might be on the cusp of entering a sci-fi-esque reality in which the world of work will be permanently altered.
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