Sep 052006
Authors: Hilary Davis The Rocky Mountain Collegian

I worry a lot. I can’t swim without worrying about drowning, I get a little weepy when I leave people at the airport, and whenever I see anyone throw away a soda can instead of recycling it I immediately begin envisioning the imminent demise of our poor planet.

But this column is not about recycling. It is about me. And I am worried. And you should be, too. And here’s why:

Some really scientific people did this scientific study about genes and aging, which was then published in the New York Times. The details are a little hazy, especially if you’re like me and read science articles but skip all words that end in “ology,” but it basically comes down to this: there is no way to tell how long you’re going to live.

Shocking, right? Well no, not exactly. But as it turns out, scientists know even less than we thought they did about the aging process. What are they doing in those labs all day, drinking out of the test tubes and playing Twister? Whatever they’re up to, they haven’t figured out the link between genetics and aging. And that makes me worry.

I am really worried about getting old. This may be irrational, because I’m only 21. But I’m no procrastinator, and like I said, if there’s anything to worry about you can bet I’m already fairly concerned about it. Global warming? I was way ahead of Al Gore on that one.

But this whole getting older thing is tricky, because there is very little I can do to avoid it and they don’t yet have a cure. And now, there is new scientific information to suggest that aging is purely genetic, and lifestyle and family history play little or no part in how long we live. Fantastic.

I think I’m like a lot of people in that I was under the assumption I would live about as long as my relatives. It makes sense, since we have a lot of the same genes. For example, my grandmother and I: We both love to travel, have snappy tempers, and even though I can’t cook as well as she can (I must have missed that particular gene) we are similar enough that I know we have to be somewhat genetically alike.

My grandma is 75 and sharp as a cooking knife, and she won’t hesitate to poke you with one, just to keep you on your toes.

I also thought that if I exercised, studied hard and ate healthily I would stave off old age simply because I worked hard and I deserved it. I always thought that death was for those who watched too much TV – I’m going to live forever!

But I may not. And neither will you. According to this new study, it doesn’t matter if all my relatives are still kicking or if I’m in good health.

It may just be programmed into my genes how long I’ll be in the land of the living. And nobody can see into those genes and determine just how long that is. Maybe I’ll just buy new genes. I hear Gap is having a sale.

Hilary Davis is a senior technical journalism major. Her column runs Wednesdays in the Collegian. Replies and feedback can be sent to

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