Why Do We All Age Differently? (Johns Hopkins U)

Some 80-year-olds seem like they’re 60, while some 60-year-olds seem closer to 80. Johns Hopkins researchers are part of a new program to understand and predict the differences in how we all age.

A new research program at Johns Hopkins is creating tools and frameworks to understand and improve the still-mysterious aging process.

The Human Aging Project, or HAP, brings together experts from the Johns Hopkins University schools of Medicine, Public Health, Nursing, Business, and Engineering to accelerate the development of knowledge and solutions.

Launched in 2021, its goal is to help people stay active and healthy in their later years, says HAP’s director, Jeremy Walston, Raymond and Anna Lublin Professor of Geriatric Medicine and Gerontology at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.

One day, he says, it might be possible to gather enough genetic, social, and environmental information about individuals to predict their trajectories over their remaining years. Will they be riding bicycles and running for president at 80, or will they be navigating debilitating physical and cognitive declines?

“If you take a room full of 80-year-olds, 15% are frail and vulnerable,” Walston says. “Sixty percent have some health problems that are slowing them down. The rest are robust and active.”

“What drives some people toward frailty and others toward resiliency?” he asks. “For the group in the middle, the 60% that you can’t quite tell, we’re trying to tease out how to make those determinations. We need to understand the aging-related biologic changes better in order to improve health trajectories in older adults.”

Social connection, for example, is one factor that seems to influence a person’s biological age. Geriatrician Thomas Cudjoe, a HAP researcher, is finding that people with few social connections tend to have higher levels of interleukin-6 and C-reactive protein—biomarkers linked to long-term negative consequences for people as they age, including decreases in cardiovascular and cognitive health.


Logically if cells aged based upon mitochondrial efficiency and senescent cells drive aging then different parts of the body age at different rates as well people differing between them.

When they draw their conclusions, I have to think most will involve the details of genetics, lifestyle, disease and injury, with the lifestyle encompassing the usual suspects of sleep, diet, pollution, stress and exercise. They will advance the field if there are surprises regarding the importance of each of these factors, or if some details of a particular factor are strongly driving aging. By its ambitious nature, this study surely can only suggest some preliminary answers.