At 82, Miller Quarles is looking forward to a long, healthy future. He still goes to work every day, eats a low-fat diet, and plays tennis five days a week. He even hopes to get married again.
He's convinced we are on the brink of discovering a modern-day fountain of youth. Miller wants to rush this process along so he can reap the benefits. He is privately funding research to try to arrest the aging process. "Old age is a disease. It can be cured," he insists.
Is it possible to live much longer than we've ever imagined? We certainly seem to be well on our way. People born in 1900 could expect to live an average of 47 years. Today, the average life expectancy is 75. People 100 or older are the fastest-growing segment of the U.S. population, with more than 60,000 having hit the century mark.
While no one has found a way to make Miller's dream a reality, a handful of doctors, such as Dr. Walter M. Bortz II, a professor at Stanford University, think we can stay alive at least 100 years.
The 67-year-old doctor has every intention of reaching 100. The human body, he says, is programmed to run a maximum of 120 years, so living out a century isn't all that far-fetched, provided you take care of yourself. Dr. Bortz's book, Dare to Be 100 (Fireside, 1996), outlines 99 steps he says can help people live until a ripe old age. "Expect to be 100," he says. "The chances are going to be progressively greater that you'll make it."