Ron Howard and I are the same age. I remember watching "Opie" on the Andy Griffith show. I thought it was cool that he and I were in the same grade. Then came his role as "Richie Cunningham" on Happy Days. He and I were the same age back then, too. Funny how that works. Well, clearly all that Hollywood life and winning Academy awards has taken a toll on Ron. I've often wondered why, with all his money, he hasn't got a hair transplant. Just sayin'. Anyway, Ron has been thinking a lot about the topic of aging lately. In fact, he's created a new documentary on the topic. Of course, genetics plays a role in how fast you age and how long you live. Experts say that the average person is born with strong enough longevity genes to live to about 85. But people who avoid bad health habits and take appropriate preventive steps may add ten years to that. Those that make it to 100 and over can usually thank their family for some good genes. But a major discovery in the early 1990's found that there are just several single genes that control the aging process. We never knew till then that aging was so closely regulated. If we can learn how to control those aging genes, we should be able to have a dramatic effect on both the quality and quantity of human life. We used to think that human aging was pre-programmed into each one of us. We thought it was just a normal part of the ongoing development of the human body. We now know that's not true. For the most part, it appears that human aging results when the body's normal repair and maintenance mechanisms, controlled by our genes, simply don't work as well as they did when we were younger. We're not really programmed to get old, we get old because we lose the ability to repair the day-to-day damage that happens from life. Currently almost all medical effort goes into treating diseases. But the research is now suggesting that our real hope is in addressing the fundamental issue of aging itself. Fortunately, we now understand that aging is much more subject to modification than was ever thought in the past. We aren't necessarily talking about making old people live longer but, rather, about helping people stay healthier as they get older. Remember, the best thing in life is to die young, as late as you possibly can.