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FROM THIS EPISODE

We look at a new study of one thousand centenarians and what scientists have learned about the roles of genes in predicting extreme longevity. We also talk about the politics of old age in a society where, as some say, seventy is the new fifty. Also, Mexico’s old-line ruling party shows renewed strength, and new developments in artificial intelligence. Furry things and other robots designed to keep us company are making it out of science labs and into homes and hospitals. Sara Terry sits in for a vacationing Warren Olney.

Banner image: Mamie Underhill (L), 104, and her daughter Leita Chapman laugh while reading a birthday card for Mamie during a birthday celebration for five women residents at the Solheim Lutheran Home who are 100-years-old or more August 16, 2002 in Los Angeles, California. Mamie turns 105 on September 19. Photo: David McNew/Getty Images

Can America Afford to Grow Old?

Gary Burtless, Henry Aaron and Barry Bosworth

Producers:
Christian Bordal
Katie Cooper
Frances Anderton

Reporter's Notebook Robotic Baby Seal Provides Human Comfort 8 MIN, 27 SEC

It's white, furry, cute and cuddly – and its name is Paro. One of the latest developments in artificial intelligence, Paro's a robot made to look like a baby harp seal that is helping comfort patients in nursing homes and veterans hospitals. Amy Harmon, national correspondent for the New York Times, is author of today's front-page story about the cuddly robot and what some people are calling robot therapy.

Guests:
Amy Harmon, New York Times (@amy_harmon)

Making News Mexico's Old-line Ruling Party Shows Renewed Strength 7 MIN, 51 SEC

Preliminary results from yesterday's elections in Mexico showed the opposition PRI party ahead in many state races. But the elections were also marred by violence and intimidation by drug cartels. Some poll workers were so afraid that several polling stations never opened. Tracy Wilkinson is Mexico City Bureau Chief for the Los Angeles Times.

Guests:
Tracy Wilkinson, Los Angeles Times (@TracyKWilkinson)

Main Topic The Pros and Cons of Extreme Longevity 34 MIN, 44 SEC

In industrialized countries, only one in six thousand people lives past the age of 100. Scientists say they have identified a group of genetic variants that can predict exceptional longevity in humans. The study, published online by the journal Science, has been called a breakthrough in understanding the role genes play in determining human lifespan. But aging populations present new challenges to societies built around shorter life spans. Just ask House Minority Leader John Boehner, who got an earful in Washington last week for suggesting that the retirement age be raised to 70 to keep Social Security solvent. What role does a healthy lifestyle play in living past one hundred? What's the impact on society of an increasingly older population? How likely is a rise in the retirement age?

Guests:
Paola Sebastiani, Professor of Biostatistics, Boston University
David Reuben, Chief of Geriatric Medicine, UCLA
Gary Burtless, Brookings Institution
Jennie Chin Hansen, Past President, AARP

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