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Global Coalition on Aging Announces Groundbreaking Initiatives in Celebration of World Health Day

NEW YORK CITY (Apr. 4, 2012) – The Global Coalition on Aging (GCOA) today reaffirms its commitment to healthy and active aging, as member organizations of the global business consortium announce innovative initiatives to enable an optimistic approach to the 21st century’s seminal challenge of population aging. Today’s announcement comes as the World Health Organization (WHO) celebrates World Health Day 2012, which is dedicated to the theme “Aging and Health: Good health adds life to years,” in recognition of and preparation for the most profound issue of our era.  According to the WHO, within the next five years, for the first time in human history, the number of adults aged 65 and over will outnumber children under the age of 5. By 2050, these older adults will outnumber children under the age of 14.

“This transformation is new in the history of humankind,” said Michael W. Hodin, executive director of the Global Coalition on Aging and Adjunct Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. “It is already having huge impact on every aspect of our economic and social lives, and yet adjustments in our institutions and policies have only begun to accommodate this revolutionary change.”

“This year World Health Day is about promoting healthy and active aging.  But to achieve this, we must start much earlier to make sure everyone follows healthy habits throughout life.  This helps each of us age in the strongest possible way, but is also good for society, as it means we can participate and contribute to the fullest. In doing so, we must also change our view of “old” and “aging,” said John Beard, director of the Department of Ageing and Life Course at the World Health Organization. “I am really pleased to see how the Global Coalition on Aging is helping to bring about the necessary shift to align market-based solutions with 21st-century demographic realities.”

To prepare for this historic shift, GCOA has created and committed to seven principles that now serve as a guide to spur actions that will bring about results in the workplace and communities throughout the world. The principles require a new kind of approach to the life course that recognizes a new middle age, between 55 and 75 years old, around which we must organize public policies as well as marketplace activities. Acting according to these principles, GCOA members are capturing opportunities for improving health and productivity as we age, thus ensuring aging populations will become economic growth drivers for society as a whole. Taking action according to the principles, GCOA members are driving change and invite others across the globe act accordingly as well.

The Principles and some of the Coalition’s groundbreaking initiatives include:

Principle #1:  Propel an optimistic view of population aging.
Action:  The Global Coalition on Aging, along with member Pfizer, championed healthy aging as main supporters of the First World Congress on Healthy Ageing in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, leading four sessions, all centered on the theme of healthy and active aging as a driver of economic growth and social involvement in the Asia-Pacific and around the world.

Principle #2:  Prepare for population aging as a “life course” rather than “end of life” process.
Action:  Galderma recently co-sponsored the International Awards for Social Responsibility in Dermatology and rewarded voluntary dermatological initiatives focused on prevention, training for health professionals and access to care that support patients of all ages during treatment and daily life. Awardees from five continents were recognized at the World Dermatology Congress.

Principle #3:  Invest in innovative research and technology that promotes healthy and active aging.
Action:  Intel recently organized and completed a workshop on the Senior Independent Living Research (SILvR) Network Initiative, designed to rapidly advance science and industry associated with independent living by coordinating traditionally separate research domains (innovation, discovery and evidence). The initiative engages academia, government, industry, foundations and advocacy organizations involved in the fields of aging, health care, eldercare, technology, housing and caregiving. Also, Standard & Poor’s continues to be the reference for the relationship between global population aging and fiscal sustainability, as reflected in a recent report examining age-related health care spending for the G-20 countries.  This provided an update to one component of the seminal S&P report “Global Aging 2010: An Irreversible Truth.”  S&P is building on this research with a new comprehensive aging report to be released this summer. Another example is Johnson & Johnson’s “Healthy Minds,” a comprehensive initiative to accelerate progress in the fight against brain disorders, including Alzheimer’s.  Healthy Minds includes a $3 million commitment in direct and challenge contributions to the International Mental Health Research Organization (IMHRO), to support One Mind for Research, a program of IMHRO that fosters neuroscience research, education and awareness-building programs.

Principle #4:  Improve quality of life through wellness, prevention and access to care.
Action:  Bayer has announced support for an independent international education and awareness campaign promoting healthy eye-sight and vision as essential for active aging.  The campaign is led by the Angiogenesis Foundation and will engage individuals and societies to address the leading causes of age-related blindness. In addition, Nutricia will serve as an active partner in the implementation stage of the Active and Healthy Ageing (AHA) project, the EU-led initiative created to help older Europeans enjoy a more active and healthy life.  Focused on the AHA goal of prevention of functional decline and frailty, Nutricia will advance programs and research around the benefits of routine nutritional screening and follow-up for older patients.  Finally, Bank of America Merrill Lynch recognizes that people are concerned about rising health care expenses and is creating resources that go beyond the simplistic approach the financial services industry has long employed. One way it’s addressing this issue is through a new iPad application that Merrill Lynch Financial Advisors can use in discussions with clients about ways to manage health care expenses. The app provides insight into insurance costs, out-of-pocket expenses and long-term care planning.

Principle #5:  Promote workplace policies that enhance productivity and lengthen working life and retirement flexibility.
Action:  Pfizer helped form an employer coalition called ReACT (Respect A Caregiver’s Time) in an effort to promote workplace environments that support caregivers facing the challenges of juggling work and caregiving for an adult with a chronic age-related disease. ReACT has more than 20 member organizations including Janssen Alzheimer Immunotherapy, a Johnson & Johnson company and Microsoft, both GCOA members. In addition, Deloitte is hosting its ON Talent Inaugural Roundtable in early June at Deloitte University, its newly opened leadership development and learning center.  The roundtable consisting of human resources, c-suite and board executives will address the relationship between the worker and organization; the changes being wrought by technology; and the rise of analytics in complex and global talent and customer markets.

Principle #6:  Build and support programs to ensure retirement income.
Action:  AEGON, through its Transamerica and Diversified Investment Advisors pension business in the U.S., has developed SecurePathSM for Life, an investment product intended to provide, in a defined contribution plan, some of the same lifetime income security as in a traditional defined benefit pension plan. This investment option is available to participants nearing retirement, providing them with the opportunity to receive a guaranteed lifetime income in retirement.

Principle #7:  Engage in public-private partnerships where they advance innovation for aging across the life course.
Action:  Microsoft, in partnership with Los Angeles government and community, today launched the “Exergamers” Wellness Club, a project designed to demonstrate and promote the combined use of the latest technology with evidence-based health and wellness programs, to promote health, wellness, exercise and fitness in senior communities. This innovative partnership follows the profoundly important work Microsoft is supporting in Newcastle to further the WHO Age-friendly Cities and Communities initiative.  In addition, the National Institutes of Health in the United States recently announced that it is working with Eli Lilly and Company to develop a publicly available database that profiles the effects of thousands of approved and investigational medicines. Comprehensive knowledge of the biological profiles of these medicines and molecules aims to make drug development pipelines more productive, including for diseases associated with aging.

“World Health Day gives us an excellent platform on which to celebrate the 20th century’s progress of longevity, which now has huge impact on our lives in the 21st. But more importantly, it should encourage all levels of society, including government, business, NGOs and communities across the globe, to collaborate, innovate and implement solutions that are pathways for aging populations to be part of economic growth globally,” said Hodin. “Coalition members are leading the way through partnerships, advocacy, and market-based innovations to turn the challenges brought on by population aging into opportunities.”

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