Living longer better

In California, fitness is taken to extremes. There are shops in image-obsessed Beverly Hills packed with pills and potions to extend life. In Santa Monica there are so many fitness boot camps and yoga sessions taking place in public parks that local officials are considering a clampdown.
"In California you see people exercising at 05:15 and it’s either great for them or it is part of a really neurotic psychosis where they’re desperately unhappy because they’re getting older," says Ed Saxon, who produced the film Fast Food Nation in 2006.
"The 55-year-old imagining that they look like a 25-year-old and getting surgery or fanatically exercising to do so – it all strikes me as a bad idea.
"The obsession with looking younger than you are means you are denying reality and you are probably denying your own value in some way."
Alongside the craze for fitness goes the ever-changing advice on what to eat to stay young. Should I have blueberries, a kale smoothie, or gluten-free toast for breakfast? And is red wine good for me or not? And what about chocolate? It can be bewildering, but the goal is clear – death must be delayed as long as possible.
"In the US it’s almost taken for granted that longevity is a good thing," says Susan Jacoby, the author of Never Say Die.
"A lot of this irrational belief that there are things that you can do to buy insurance against getting older and diseased has to do with our real dislike, in America, of growing older."
Jacoby, who is 67, argues against the "lifestyle garbage" and "supplement garbage" that she says the age-management business is promoting.
"If you look beneath the people who are telling you that you can live to be a healthy 120, there’s a guy or a woman who’s selling something," she adds. The fact is, most people who live into their 90s die after "an extended period of disability", Jacoby argues
"We’re just accepting this myth that because we’re healthier than ever at 67, it is going to be the case at 87 or 97. But what is true – thanks to some of the dubious advances of modern medicine, which keep people alive no matter what – is that there is going to have to be more thought about taking care of these people."