Get older without feeling older.
Many of us fear old age because we dread the problems that so often accompany it: frailty, disabilities, dependence. If you're a baby boomer caring for an ailing parent, you've probably seen all this up close.
And, as anyone who suffers from age-related debility or cares for such a person knows, the social, psychological and economic costs of those last years of life are astronomical. But in 35 years - when the youngest boomers turn 78 - things may well be totally, utterly different.
Ask most people in middle age how long they expect to live, and they'll guess roughly their parents' age at death, but this is pessimistic. In the past 50 years, average lifespan has risen by around two years per decade. That's been happening not through our increasing ability to keep frail people alive, but through postponing the age at which most people descend into frailty in the first place.
The time a typical American spends with mild disability has substantially shrunk, probably because better education and prosperity can affect that stage of aging quite powerfully. In the coming years, there is every reason to expect that trend to continue.
Ultimately, our bodies fail us in old age because of microscopic problems that have been accumulating throughout life. For a few decades our metabolism can work around them, but eventually they become too numerous, and we start going downhill.
As scientists learn more about these changes and about how to repair them, we'll significantly postpone the age at which severe physical and mental debilitation emerges. Eventually we'll be able to wave goodbye to the debilitation of aging altogether, because we'll postpone its onset faster than time is passing.
With advances in medicine, there's no reason why we can't move gains in average lifespan from 2 years per decade to 10. The result: a longer life and a much healthier one. If we push the relevant research forward as fast as possible, I estimate that we have a good chance of achieving this within 35 years. If not, it's mainly Gen X and beyond who will benefit.