Dr Shigeaki Hinohara was recognised for helping make Japan a “world leader in longevity” and was chairman emeritus at St. Luke’s International University. He died in July this year at 105 and worked up until a few months before his death.
In a 2009 interview with the Japan Times, Dr Hinohara said “energy comes from feeling good, not from eating well or sleeping a lot”.
He advised adults try to have fun as they did when they were children, explaining that as children we “often forgot to eat or sleep. I believe that we can keep that attitude as adults, too. It’s best not to tire the body with too many rules such as lunchtime and bedtime”.
He also advised those looking for longevity to avoid retiring, explaining that “there is no need to ever retire, but if one must, it should be a lot later than 65”.
“The current retirement age was set at 65 half a century ago, when the average life-expectancy in Japan was 68 years and only 125 Japanese were over 100 years old,” he explained.
“Today, Japanese women live to be around 86 and men 80, and we have 36,000 centenarians in our country. In 20 years we will have about 50,000 people over the age of 100.”
Should one enjoy such a long life, Dr Hinohara advised they also “strive to contribute to society”.
It’s easy to work towards individual goals and meet familial needs up to the age of 60, but beyond that the focus should shift to social goals, he argued.
“Since the age of 65, I have worked as a volunteer. I still put in 18 hours seven days a week and love every minute of it.”
Can we live forever?
The short answer: no.
“Ageing is mathematically inevitable—like, seriously inevitable. There’s logically, theoretically, mathematically no way out,” Joanna Masel, the author of a mathematical study into the inevitability of death told the World Economic Forum.
The professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and at the University of Arizona explained that while everyone knows that they will die, the question of why we age is more mysterious.
She said: “People have looked at why ageing happens, from the perspective of ‘why hasn’t natural selection stopped ageing yet?’ That’s the question they ask, and implicitly in that is the idea that such a thing as non-ageing is possible, so why haven’t we evolved it?
“We’re saying it’s not just a question of evolution not doing it; it can’t be done by natural selection or by anything else.”
That’s because trying to prevent ageing in a significant way is a zero-sum game. Treat “sluggish” cells and the results are quickly regenerating cells and cancer.
“The basic reason is that things break. It doesn’t matter how much you try and stop them from breaking, you can’t.
“You might be able to slow down ageing but you can’t stop it,” she added. “We have a mathematical demonstration of why it’s impossible to fix both problems. You can fix one problem but you’re stuck with the other one.”
Lead author of the study, Paul Nelson concluded: “It’s just something you have to deal with if you want to be a multicellular organism.”