A Seven Decade Lifespan? Variations on an Evolutionary Theme

Monday, April 8, 2024 (2 PM – 3:30 PM)

Michael Gurven

Michael Gurven is Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where he is Chair of Integrative Anthropological Sciences, and Associate Director of the Broom Center for Demography. His research program applies an evolutionary lens to help inform our understanding of aging and today’s complex diseases. Since 2002, Gurven has co-directed the Tsimane’ Health and Life History Project to better understand how lifestyle and the physical and social environment affect health and lifespan in subsistence-level societies.

The evolution of human longevity still remains a curious puzzle. Here I provide some new perspectives on the why and how of longevity over the course of human evolution, using longitudinal study of subsistence societies as an imperfect lens for gaining insight. I argue that our evolved human lifespan is about seven decades, and that the multifaceted contributions of middle-to-older aged adults is part of the reason why. I will combine ethnographic, demographic and biomedical studies to shed light on the timing and significance of the transition from “asset” to “burden” in late adulthood, with implications on the global Gray Wave of population aging.


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