Why older people should be allowed to change their legal age
Earlier this week IndusInd Bank shares rose supposedly as the bank announced that it has finalised a potential candidate to replace its current CEO Ramesh Sobti who will have to retire at the age of 70yrs as per the current norms of the RBI. Similarly, Aditya Puri, the CEO of HDFC Bank, India’s largest private sector bank is set to retire next October as he turns 70yrs. There have been arguments about why there should be such a hard and fast rule for retirement as long as the individual concerned is fit enough to fulfil her duties. This piece by Joona Räsänen, a bioethicist at the University of Oslo, perhaps lends some muscle to these arguments. Joona points out that individuals age biologically at different rates, both in mind and body and hence their ‘official age’ determined by their date of birth has relatively less relevance.
“Age change should be allowed when the following three conditions are met. First, the person is at risk of being discriminated against because of age. Second, the person’s body and mind are in better shape than would be expected based on the person’s chronological age (that is, the person is biologically younger than he is chronologically). Third, the person does not feel that his legal age is befitting.
….Age doesn’t always refer to the time that something has existed. For example, whiskey doesn’t age in a bottle. A whiskey’s ‘age’ refers only to the time between distillation and bottling. A 21-year-old whiskey is still 21 years old even though it has been in a bottle for 10 years. So, while the whiskey has existed, chronologically, for 31 years, we say (rightly) that the whiskey is 21 years old. That is because the chronological age of the whiskey does not matter.
Now, suppose it becomes possible to cryopreserve living human beings in ultra-low temperature for dozens of years, and by this way reduce their biological ageing rate to, say, 10 per cent of the normal rate. A person who is frozen at the age of 40 and woken up after 100 years would be biologically in as good shape as a 50-year-old. Surely the law should not treat him as being 140 years old, even though he has existed that long?
…..How fast our physical and mental functions crumble and how fast our cells deteriorate depends on many factors, such as genetics, epigenetics and lifestyle habits such as diet and exercise. In the field of geriatric medicine, biological age is a commonly used term. While little consensus exists on how it should be determined, some estimates of biological age predict mortality more accurately than chronological age. People who have existed for an equally long time can age at varying rates biologically. So why must their legal age be the same if their biological age is so different?”