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The Future of the Aging Society: Burden or Human Capital?

(Please note that this is my per­son­al take at the dis­cus­sions that took place in Dubai as part of the Glob­al Agen­da Coun­cil on the Chal­lenges of Geron­tol­ogy put togeth­er by the World Eco­nom­ic Forum, and builds on the work of my col­leagues, but it does not rep­re­sent a for­mal doc­u­ment or state­ment of posi­tion. Sim­ply put, we would like to engage your brain in defin­ing the chal­lenges and outlining/ exe­cut­ing the solu­tions).

Con­text: The Chal­lenges of the Aging Soci­ety

The world is aging. This is occur­ring in two ways: through shifts in the age struc­ture that will even­tu­al­ly lead to many more peo­ple reach­ing old­er ages than ever before, and through con­tin­ued suc­cess in extend­ing life. Less than 100 years ago, life expectan­cy was between 30 to 40 years. Today, close to 800 mil­lion cit­i­zens are 60 and over.

And aging in health­i­er ways. Aging has incor­rect­ly been asso­ci­at­ed with decline and decay, when in fact many peo­ple live healthy into old­er ages. There has been a syn­chro­nous exten­sion in life expectan­cy and qual­i­ty of life — the aver­age 65-year-old today is much health­i­er, phys­i­cal­ly and men­tal­ly, than the aver­age 50-year-old of 100–150 years ago — when most exist­ing insti­tu­tions were envi­sioned and cre­at­ed.

Healthy life can be fur­ther extend­ed with exist­ing knowl­edge. The fact is the onset and pro­gres­sion of fatal and dis­abling dis­eases, dis­or­ders, and dis­abil­i­ty can be post­poned using well-researched basic mea­sures of pub­lic health, envi­ron­men­tal and behav­iour­al changes, and med­ical tech­nol­o­gy inter­ven­tions. The same meth­ods may be used to improve or main­tain men­tal and phys­i­cal func­tion­ing.

Our health­care and retire­ment sys­tems are on bank­rupt­cy track — their premis­es are out­dat­ed. Exist­ing insti­tu­tions, poli­cies and atti­tudes do not reflect the points out­lined above, hav­ing been devel­oped for a soci­ety that no longer exists. We need to get on the right track: Read the rest of this entry »

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