Most people, in spite of everything else, desire to live long. Apparently, we are designed to survive and to try all means to ensure that we continue to do just that. When you think about the different conditions that different people everywhere experience, you will agree with me that this is true. Take for instance, terminally ill patients with cancer or any other painful disease, in spite of the excruciating pain, they struggle to live on. Is there any wonder that the new trend in research is the study of aging and old age.
The oldest known person in modern times, a French woman, Jeanne Calmont, lived for only 122 years and 164 days to be precise. The oldest known living person on our planet today is a Jamaican; Violet Brown who is 117 years. All these hold no candle to Harriet, the tortoise who lived for 175 years before her poor heart failed and she gave up on this life. If you think that was old, wait until you hear about a giant tortoise that is said to have lived for a whopping 250 years!
Another amazing long living mammal is the Arctic whale that has beaten all odds such as whalers’ spears( broken off spears from as way back as the 1800s have been found in their bodies), life threatening storms and a multitude of other dangers in the ocean, to survive up to about 211 years!
Other creatures that exist for a long time are mostly sea creatures – there must be a secret in the water! These include clams, that have been known to live for about 400 years; sea sponges who beat every other creature in this category by surviving for over ten and a half centuries!
However, top of the range is a type of jellyfish which scorns death. It just does not die – it just recycles itself. If undisturbed by other factors such as disease or by being another fish’s meal, this incredible creature, after it has off springs, is able to move from being mature, back to infanthood therefore living on and on!
This humble, but fascinating creature may hold the much sought-after secret for our longevity. Scientists, especially those interested in stem cell, are especially taking keen interest in the possibility of regrowing dead cells that have died as a result of different aspects like accidents – broken spinal cords, or as a result of diseases like cancer, leprosy and just plain old age ailments like arthritis and reduced abilities in all sectors.
Lois Nakibuuka is an educator and counsellor