The interesting point is that chemical signals of old age need not in any normal sense be deleterious in themselves. For instance, suppose that it incidentally happens to be a fact that a substance S is more concentrated in the bodies of old individuals than of young individuals. S in itself might be quite harmless, perhaps some substance in the food which accumulates in the body over time. But automatically, any gene that just happened to exert a deleterious effect in the presence of S, but which otherwise had a good effect, would be positively selected in the gene pool, and would in effect be a gene ‘for’ dying of old age. The cure would simply be to remove S from the body.
Richard Dawkins, The Selfish Gene, 30th Anniversary Edition, 2006
Added to diary 27 June 2018