Elliott Small is building a business to extend your lifespan. In 2018, he invented the AgeMeter, which measures the physiological biomarkers that decline with age, such as reaction time, hearing, eyesight, memory, and lung capacity, among many more.
After every biomarker is tested, the AgeMeter calculates a person’s “functional age,” the age at which a person physically functions, which can differ — but hopefully not too greatly — from one’s chronological age.
It was kismet that led to Small developing the AgeMeter. It began in the late 1990s when Small was on a business trip to Johannesburg, South Africa as a technology consultant. There, he overheard a radio interview with Dr. Christiaan Geldenhuys that changed his life.
In the interview, Geldenhuys was talking about an event at which he would be discussing anti-aging medicine. Small was immediately intrigued.
“I had never heard that term before, 'anti-aging medicine,'” Small says. “But I thought, well, I’ve been out of school for a while — I’d be interested in anything like that if it’s real.”
Small attended Dr. Geldenhuys’s event, which featured the H-SCAN functional age test, a device invented in 1990 that was the predecessor to the AgeMeter.
The purpose of the H-SCAN test was not only to help doctors suggest lifestyle changes to their patients to help them get healthier, but to also make the data available to scientists who are researching ways to slow or reverse the aging process.
“There’s a lot of optimism that that might be possible someday,” Small says.
After Geldenhuys’s talk — and taking the H-SCAN test himself — Small was hooked. He was so fascinated by the relatively new field of anti-aging medicine that he eventually became a sales representative for, and then a distributor of the H-SCAN test, through his company, the Centers for Age Control.
In 2013, the company that developed and manufactured the H-SCAN discontinued the product; however, its inventor, Richard Hochschild, gave Small his blessing to modernize and rebuild the machine.
Small did just that. In 2018, he developed the AgeMeter with Harvard Medical School scientists Dr. George Church and Dr. David Sinclair, who study the genetic and biochemical mechanisms of aging.
The AgeMeter is the 21st century update to the H-SCAN — which mainly comprised an old-school computer switchboard. The AgeMeter, in contrast, is essentially an iPad mounted on a stand with Bluetooth peripherals such as headphones, a spirometer (which measures one’s lung capacity), a tactile vibration meter, and a pulse oximeter (which measures pulse oxygen levels).
The tests are all available via the AgeMeter app in the App Store, which can currently only be used with the AgeMeter kit. Eventually, though, Small wants to expand into the fitness tech space, a lá Fitbit.
“Later this year we'll also have a consumer app, where instead of doing what the researchers and healthcare providers do and buying the whole package with a stand and the iPad mounted inside and various peripherals to help you measure your biomarkers, the tests that don't require peripherals would be part of a consumer global app that someone could do on their smartphone,” says Small.
Small also wants to add more biomarkers that the AgeMeter can test via the pulse oximeter, such as heart rate variability — "the less you’re able to vary your heart rate, the older and less healthy you likely are," Small says — and arterial stiffness.
Sales of the AgeMeter have been slow but steady so far, and Small has heard nothing but good things from the doctors and other healthcare providers to whom he’s sold the device.
But Small’s passion, ever since that fateful day when he overheard that radio interview with Dr. Geldenhuys, has always been to contribute to research on aging.
“Our database grows perpetually, so that over time our company can have more data on these biomarkers and age and gender than anyone else,” he says. “The larger the database grows, the more precision there is in the results to estimate a person's functional age.”