I think the most important piece of health advice for most people alive today is one that might sound rather strange: to contribute to the advancement of ageing biology. Successfully turning ideas in the lab into treatments for ageing is likely to be the single most important thing our generation can do to ensure that we, our friends and families, and people around the world can enjoy longer, healthier lives.
If you’d like to help, I’ve got two suggestions: first, write to your political representatives (your MP in the UK, your Congresspeople and Senators in the US, and so on) explaining the importance of funding biogerontology research to both health and economic prosperity; and second, if you want to directly support research, I’ve made a list of charitable organisations who are performing research into ageing biology.
This isn’t a complete list, so if you have any suggestions, please get in touch by email to let me know what I’ve missed or, even better, help me improve this page on collaborative editor HackMD!
Tell your politicians about biogerontology
Wherever you are in the world, you can write to politicians that represent you to tell them about the huge potential of ageing biology—and that, to secure your vote, they would do well to invest in it.
Here are some general tips for making an effective case to a politician:
- Find the email address of the people who represent you!
- In the US, you can use this page to find links on this page to write to local government, Representatives, Senators or the President.
- In the UK, you can use this page to find your MP and their contact details, or you can contact them through www.writetothem.com. Remember to include your full name and home address with postcode in your message so your MP knows you’re a constituent.
- Keep your letter short and to the point. Politicians are very busy, and can receive hundreds of pieces of correspondence per day.
- Have a specific request—it could be as simple as that they find out more about ageing biology, or that they sign a petition or motion, or raise the issue with a relevant person or department. This will make it easier for the person you’re writing to to take action.
- If you have experience or expertise on the topic you’re writing on, briefly mention it to lend weight to your case.
- Make your letter personal, rather than just copying and pasting a form letter—this will make your message more powerful. Include your own stories where possible. For example, how has ageing affected you personally? Are you caring for a friend or relative, or maybe you or someone you know is a patient with an age-related disease? Are you a scientist or a doctor with an interest in this field?
- If there are specific issues that directly affect others in your constituency, town or state, mention this. Ageing of course affects all of us, but if there are issues specific to your area, your representative is more likely to be willing and able to engage.
- Find out some basic facts about whoever you’re contacting before getting in touch: which party they are part of may make a difference to what you say, or if they have a particular position in government or sit on a committee, it might be worth explaining the significance of ageing biology to their role.
I’ve adapted these from this page I co-wrote as part of a campaign with Science is Vital in the UK. My experience of political campaigning is UK-specific, so if you have any thoughts which are relevant to other countries, please let me know and I’ll try to incorporate them!
Other political support
- If you live in the EU, you can endorse this proposal for EU-level commitments to enable healthy longevity research and technologies.
If you’d like to read more about how to use research funding to combat ageing from a policy perspective, you might find this submission I made to the UK’s House of Lords inquiry into ageing biology useful. Further policy recommendations can be found in the final Chapter of Ageless.
Donate to biogerontology charities
Each of these titles is a link to a page where you can donate to a particular organisation. Organisations are listed in reverse alphabetical order, and I have no affiliation with any of them—though in a few cases I interviewed scientists working at them while writing Ageless.
It’s worth checking whether gifts are tax deductible, or eligible for the similar Gift Aid scheme in the UK, as this may increase the amount you’re able to donate.
Charities in the US
The HALO institute at UW works on a variety of projects aimed at understanding and intervening in the ageing process, including the Dog Aging Project, listed separately below.
The SENS (Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence) Research Foundation was founded by Aubrey de Grey to create treatments based on his SENS approach to treating aging.
The Kogod Center, based at the Mayo Clinic, works on a number of aspects of the aging process, the most famous of which is their pioneering work work on senescent cells and senolytic drugs that remove them.
Though the NIA is a taxpayer-funded government body in the US, it can accept private donations. When making a donation, you should designate funds for aging biology specifically by designating either the Division of Aging Biology, or one of the the NIA’s intramural research labs as the recipient of your donation. (This is important because for historical reasons the NIA invests a large amount of its research funding into Alzheimer’s disease rather than the aging process itself.)
The Methuselah Foundation supports a number of prizes and early-stage companies to encourage development of regenerative medicines against the diseases of ageing.
The Life Extension Advocacy Foundation (LEAF) runs crowdfunding campaigns for specific scientific projects, or you can ‘become a Lifespan Hero’ and help them continue to develop their community, conferences and events to raise the profile of biogerontology.
The Dog Aging Project is enrolling thousands of dogs to study how their biology changes with age in detail, with the hope of applying the same insight to humans too. Some dogs will also be trialling anti-ageing drug rapamycin—a safety study has already shown that there are no serious side-effects, and that it improved heart health.
The Buck Institute is a California-based research institute dedicated entirely to understanding and treating aging.
AFAR engages in policy advocacy and directly funds research into aging biology. It is also the organisation spearheading the TAME trial of metformin as a potential anti-aging drug.
The Institute for Aging Research at Einstein has a number of aging research programs, most famously large studies of centenarians’ genetics and the TAME trial of metformin as a potential anti-aging drug. When donating, choose ‘Other fund’ as the designation, and in the Comment/Designate a program box, specify the Institute for Aging Research.
Charities in the UK
The Integrative Genomics of Ageing Group uses computational methods, such as analysing genome sequencing data, to understand the ageing process. Among other projects, they sequenced the genome of the exceptionally long-lived bowhead whale.
The BSRA funds research, PhD studentships and outreach and public engagement activities in the UK.
The Biogerontology Research Foundation funds research and advocacy around ageing biology, including financing the UK’s All Party Parliamentary Group on Longevity.