CLEVELAND - The world is constantly changing and upgrading. We trade things like old cars for newer models or cell phones for the latest technology. Some people have even exchanged their partner for someone younger.
But what if aging stopped or significantly slowed down? Would you want to live to be 150? How about 1,000 years old? British researcher and longevity expert Dr. Aubrey de Grey believes there's a person alive today who will live to see their 150th birthday. He also thinks within 20 years someone will be born who will live to be 1,000.
But two local scientists aren't quite in agreement.
University of Akron professor of psychology and aging expert Dr. Harvey Sterns knows de Grey, and while he regards him highly, he doesn't think we're there yet.
"His discussion is very intriguing, however, it's a matter of scientific potential," explains Sterns. "We're just beginning to have a better understanding of various diseases and/or factors that may affect longevity. It could be a critical breakthrough would make all the difference in the world. I just think 150 is pushing it."
Sterns believes it's a matter of finding the optimal combination of health, nutrition and stress factors, calling it a multi-dimensional situation.
Case Western Reserve University professor of aging, Dr. Robert Binstock, places the probability of someone living to be 150 very low.
"(de Grey) basis it on theories, not on any laboratory work," explained Binstock. "He hasn't worked with human or animal models on biology of aging that would suggest this."
Dr. de Grey argues aging is a disease that can be cured, while adding cancer is the single most difficult aspect of aging to remedy. He calls it the SENS theory , or seven things that tend to go wrong when we get older. According to de Grey, if we could reach in through engineering and undo what goes wrong, then we can exponentially increase life span. We would be youthful, both physically and mentally.
"Why should we cure aging? Because it kills people," de Grey tells an audience in a video posted on YouTube. "Going from independent to frail and miserable isn't fun."
And Sterns believes part of the theory is true. "If we could get ride of heart disease than people would live much longer. If we were to get rid of cancer, it would increase the average length of life."
Sterns says most of the people who have reached advanced ages, centenarians, have very unique characteristics. "They tend to often times be people in better health than those much younger than they are. You can have people in their 60s with major health problems and people in their 80s, 90s, 100s without."
Of course, there are things you can do to help prolong your life, and staying positive plays a big role.
"Yoga, Tai Chi, exercise, walking. Maintaining an active lifestyle makes a big difference," says Sterns. "(Research) has shown well exercised older people have higher cognitive functions than couch-potato young people...I see no reason, if people who are capable and able, that they shouldn't work longer or engage in activities they choose. I think we as a society place limitations on people because we don't think it's possible."
So, while others think tampering with the aging process is wrong, de Grey compares it to the invention of the wheel, a situation where man wanted to change what he didn't like about his current environment.
"We need to defeat human aging because there's no reason to die on any particular schedule," says de Grey. "We need to start (investing) in fighting aging now."
But would you want to live to be 150?
"It's possible to have a much better quality of life," feels Sterns. "It's not just adding years to life, but also life to years. So, the emphasis is on the quality."
As for Binstock's stance? "Aubrey de Grey is a tremendous promoter and I'm fond of him. I'd tell him this: What he has to say doesn't really grow out of experiments. It's a way to raise money."
Safe to say the "age-old" debate is ongoing.
In case you were wondering, the oldest documented living person is Jeanne Calment of France (1875-1997). She was 122 years old, a supercentenarian, when she died in 1997.