University of Denver

Opportunities and Challenges of a World with Negligible Senescence

Principal Investigators: Barry Hughes, Randall Kuhn

Research Team: Eli Margolese-Malin, Dale Rothman, José Solórzano

The purpose of this project was to break the boundaries of previous aging-oriented demographic analyses and to think broadly about the consequences of potentially increasing human healthspan. Initially, this project looked at the issue globally and across the century, then followed with a look at a wide range of possible human futures across three dimensions of uncertainty:
1. The timing and pace of increase, were it to occur, in the rate of successful medical advances that increase healthspan
2. The pace and character of global diffusion of these advances
3. The extent of morbidity of older age cohorts in the case of these advances
This project built on the foundation of the International Futures (IFs) forecasting system, which has a number of important characteristics for such a project and is widely established and used in a variety of contexts. The IFs system features strong and closely integrated models in multiple issue areas including demographics, health, education, the economy, physical resource/food and energy, and environmental models. The system is also freely available, enabling others to both explore its structure and replicate analyses, etc.
The project was designed with a three-stage structure: 
1. Basic demographic extensions of IFs and the addition of capability (parameters and controls) to frame the three dimensions of scenarios around widespread changes to typical human healthspan.
2. Complete aging-related extensions of IFs (in modules such as health and education) and initial explorations with the system. Initial scenario analysis to discover and solve problems associated with the extensions and to begin scoping the scenario space.
3. Extensions of IFs to represent the economic impacts of a full range of scenarios and undertaking/documenting the results of the scenarios for the broader IFs system, focusing on economic but not excluding sustainability variables.
Each stage of the project was to culminate in the creation of a version of the IFs forecasting system allowing use of the system with the extensions undertaken and scenario capabilities added. The third stage produced a paper, which appeared in issue 99 of the journal Technological Forecasting and Social Change.