Welcome back for another episode of the Mason Institute Investigates podcast. Today’s guest is Dr Ilke Turkmendag (Twitter: @IlkeTurkmendag), senior lecturer in Law, Innovation and Society at the University of Newcastle. In this episode, Dr Turkmendag talks her recent research into longevity protocols and the ethics of healthy ageing.
Dr Turkmendag shares her experience of researching a niche topic and explains how the pandemic contributed to a widespread increase in interest for longevity protocols and promoted the individualisation of ageing risk.
“… So, in my view, pandemic played a role in this why longevity protocols got so widespread. It’s because we got isolated… We got frightened by external health threats that is totally out of control… we got more focused on our own health, like how to improve our own health… And during this time, longevity experts engaged with public directly through social media and I would say that [they] and their followers actually share sociotechnical imaginaries of reversing ageing, extending lifespan…”
Dr Turkmendag also points out that in order to support research into longevity protocols and ways of ageing healthily, the process of ageing itself must first be perceived as a disease.
“Longevity industry reached a point where further advancements [are] only possible through public persuasion along with of course increased capital and the research, but in my opinion, persuasion is central and that’s what longevity leaders are doing, and this involves constructing ageing as a disease. So historically, ageing has been viewed as a natural process and we didn’t see it as a disease and longevity researchers [are] actively trying to change that understanding… [and] acknowledgement by WHO of ageing is a major disease risk factor actually opened the door to treating ageing as a disease.”
As we move towards a society where everyone is encouraged to be the “CEO of your own health”, Dr Turkmendag stresses the importance of publishing research responsibly, especially the need to consider the social context.
For more information, please see the below links to further resources. Happy listening! Written by Leyla Noury (Twitter: @dheggacad)
Links and further resources
Office for Health Improvement and Disparities (OHID) and the Centre for Ageing Better, ‘A consensus on healthy ageing’, (Gov.uk, published last updated 10 February 2023)
Aging Analytics Agency, “Top-100 Longevity Leaders” report.
Editorial, ‘Opening the door to treating ageing as a disease’ The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology, The Lancet, 6 (8): 587, August 2018
Cathal McCrory and Rose Anne Kenny, ‘Rebuking the concept of ageing as a disease’, The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology, The Lancet 6 (10): 768, October 2018
Powell, Jason L, ‘Theorizing gerontology: The case of old age, professional power, and social policy in the United Kingdom.’ Journal of Ageing and Identity, 6 (3): 117–135. 2001
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‘Mason Institute Investigates’ is produced and edited by the Mason Institute and made with funding from the Edinburgh Law School.
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