Star Lecture

Why and How Are We Living Longer?

Professor Tom Kirkwood
16th March 2017, 7:00pm
Manchester Conference Centre (Sackville Street)

Lifespans are increasing, but why this is happening and where it might lead? Until recently, the common view was simply that humans are programmed to die after a certain period. Previous increases in life expectancy were caused by preventing deaths in the early and middle years of life, and it was expected that life expectancy would hit a ceiling as more of us bumped into the fixed reality of ageing. So it was a surprise to see the continuing increase in human longevity that has occurred in recent decades. This unforeseen development is driven by something new: we are reaching old age in generally better health, and death rates at advanced ages are falling fast. At the same time, biology has established that there is no fixed programme that actively directs our deaths. Ageing is more malleable than we used to think. We need urgently to establish the parameters that govern this malleability and to identify the interactions between, on the one hand, intrinsic biological processes that drive the frailty, disability and diseases that become more common with ageing, and on the other hand, the social and lifestyle factors that influence our individual trajectories of health in old age. 

About the Speaker

Tom Kirkwood was until recently Dean for Ageing at Newcastle University, having been Director of the Institute for Ageing and Health since 2004. During his directorship the institute developed to become the largest on ageing in the UK and one of the foremost of its kind in the world. He also recently began a part-time position as a Professor at the University of Copenhagen. His research has been on the scientific basis of ageing and its relationship with age-related disability and disease, including the impact of social and behavioural factors. He leads a major population-based investigation (the Newcastle 85+ Study) which has examined in unprecedented detail the spectrum of health and associated biological, functional and psychosocial measures in a cohort of very old people. He has advised the UK government on aspects of population ageing. He has published many scientific papers and won several international prizes for his research. He has also worked with organizations in the business and voluntary sector, including the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries (of which he is an honorary fellow). He has contributed extensively to shaping the public debate on ageing, through his 2001 BBC Reith Lectures and frequent contributions to television, radio, and print media. His books include the award-winning ‘Time of Our Lives: The Science of Human Ageing’, ‘Chance, Development and Ageing’ (with Caleb Finch), ‘The End of Age’ based on his Reith Lectures, and ‘An Age of Wonders: the Story of the Newcastle 85+ Study’ (with Gordon Morris). 


Menu for Supper

Beef bourguignon or baked sea bass with patatas bravas or spinach & ricotta cannelloni with a choice of sides from the following: herb dusted diced potatoes, steamed market vegetables and pilaf rice

Pear & almond frangipan or  strawberry cheesecake

N.B. the Lit & Phil office have to inform venues of catering numbers approximately 7 days before an event so please make sure you book as early as possible to avoid disappointment.