Diseases of old age

I’m having lunch today with dead teens and twenty-somethings. Young men who gave their lives during World War Two. These men died young, with bodies more immune to disease than bullets, bombs and hand grenades. Not so the many elders who surround them in this field of memories; old folks who often died or were pained by diseases and ailments which rarely afflict the young.

Old people are more vulnerable not due to their age, but to the fact of their halted or reduced reproductive capability. At least this is the claim of biology, which describes events such as menopause as a biological horizon; a point beyond which the culling force of evolution cannot reach.

The idea is simple. During our reproductive years those who are succeptible to disease may be removed from the reproducing population before they can pass their genes to the next generation. It’s a harsh reality. A fact which Darwin himself recoiled from. It’s also a testimony to our species’ capacity for ethics that we almost universally reject the satisfaction of this natural law upon our own. That said. Even our compassion cannot yet protect very well the aged from the diseases which afflict and may ultimately bring them down.

With the loss of reproduction, comes the loss of the filter which naturally weeds out disease. This is apparently the reason so many diseases are most common, or even unique to old age. Our seniority gains us much in terms of maturity, wisdom and hindsight, though sadly it also robs us through importance of the very vehicle which gave us such long life in the first place.

Biology and science in general are filled with many such examples of bittersweet irony. Uncalculated manifestations of truth under the governance of indifference.


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