There has been an emerging tradition by longevity researchers and activists around the world to organize events dedicated to the promotion of biomedical and biological research of ageing and longevity around October 1 – the UN International Day of Older Persons. This day is sometimes referred to in some parts of the longevity activists’ community as “International Longevity Day”. Perhaps unintentionally, “the day of older persons” may appear value-neutral and indifferent toward the “older persons”, while the “longevity day”, celebrating and aspiring to healthy longevity for all, may be more uplifting. Yet, as this is the officially recognized “UN International Day of Older Persons”, this provides the longevity research activists a perfect opportunity, perhaps even a perfect “excuse”, to emphasize the importance of ageing and longevity research for the development of effective health care for the elderly, in the wide public as well as among decision makers.
The drive to emphasize this importance derives from the simple realization that biomedical interventions into degenerative ageing processes can provide the best foundations for combating ageing-related ill health and for attaining healthy longevity. Yet, not enough is known about these processes and their countermeasures to provide truly effective means of combat. Hence “More Research is Needed!”
This simple realization and the wish to induce this realization in others, have provided enough motivation for research activists to step up for the “Longevity Day” campaign. Their voluntary involvement is encouraging on several grounds: First of all, it shows that the spirit of grass roots activism is alive (most participants were students). It showcased a potent combination of research advocacy and ageing rights advocacy (healthy longevity may be considered a basic, perhaps even a primary right of older persons that can be facilitated by biomedical research). Moreover, it showed that the issue of healthy longevity is considered important and inspirational enough to be discussed and advocated at the grass roots level. Read more on this position here.
This campaign has a bit of a history. In 2013, events during or around that day – ranging from small meetings of friends to seminars and rather large conferences, alongside special publications, distributions of outreach materials (petitions and flyers) and media appearances – were held in over 30 countries, and in 2014 in over 20 countries. This year, record participation was attained with meetings and promotions held in over 40 countries, with outreach materials (videos, newsletters, social media) reaching out to hundreds of thousands of people. The support ranged from small local groups of activists to authoritative scientific societies and associations. Yet this campaign may be considered an exercise. It showed that grass roots campaigns for biomedical research of ageing are possible. Yet, much remains to be aspired to even begin to think of approaching the level of public involvement and influence that has been achieved by the campaigns of other movements, such as the “Green movement”. Hopefully, the movement for healthy longevit
y may gradually approach such levels. Read more on this campaign here.
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Written by Dr Ilia Stambler
Outreach Coordinator, International Society on Aging and Disease (ISOAD)
6 November 2015