G-8 Should Tackle Issues of Aging

The world’s most significant social, political and economic development is its aging population. Little wonder that Europe has declared 2012 the year of active and healthy aging.

Within five years, for the first time in history, the number of adults 65 and older will exceed the number of children younger than 5, the World Health Organization reports. By mid-century, this demographic will outnumber children younger than 14, and more than 2 billion of the people on Earth will be 60 or older.

By 2050, U.N. data show, 33 countries will each have more than 10 million citizens who are 60 and older, including Brazil with 58 million, China with 437 million, India with 324 million, Indonesia with 70 million and the United States with 107 million.

These fast-changing demographic trends are inexorable — which is why the aging global population’s impact on social stability, economic growth and fiscal sustainability should be part of the agenda at next month’s Group of Eight summit.

The challenge is not simply that people live longer — three more decades since the beginning of the 20th century. The world is also coping with stunningly low birth rates. Together, these issues create a new proportion of “young” and “old.” In Britain, Germany, Italy and Japan, roughly 40 percent of the population will be older than 60 by mid-century. Other G-8 members are not far behind. The G-8 summit at Camp David is an ideal place for the United States to take the lead on this issue.

Can it be a coincidence that, under the weight of this demographic transformation, the 20th century’s social contract is coming apart at the seams? With Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Spain and a number of U.S. states facing huge budget challenges, the consequences of applying last century’s economic and social policies to today’s demographic realities are stark. The arithmetic simply does not work. Japan, the world’s “oldest” country, has done the math, and for next month’s annual World Health Assembly, it has put forward a progressive resolution aimed at health reform for non-communicable diseases that are linked to aging, such as Alzheimer’s, cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

And yet, the agenda for the G-8 summit appears deficient on the topic of how countries can work together to develop policy reforms that would create pathways for healthy, active and productive aging. The stakes are high. We cannot continue to bicker over how to bail out Europe’s southern tier. Without serious policy reforms as the century progresses and the world continues to age, there will be no one left to bail it out.

What’s needed are profound policy changes in health, education and urban living that facilitate an active aging. What if we reimagined and redefined what it means to age? What if, in light of our longer lifespans, “middle age” were 55 to 75? What if we enabled our innovations and technologies to position aging populations to drive economic growth?

What if we redesigned the education process so it accounted for our longer life spans and the changing needs of our workplaces? What if we dedicated basic research-and-development funding to the big diseases of aging, such as Alzheimer’s and cardiovascular disease, and other impairments to active aging, such as vision deterioration and bone frailty? And what if we followed the Global Network of Age-friendly Cities and Communities — that genius invention of the World Health Organization — where communities’ housing, transportation, social services and education were aligned to aging populations, not just because it’s the right thing to do but also because it’s in everyone’s economic and fiscal interests?

If President Obama can be flexible enough to move the G-8 meeting from Chicago to Camp David, he could direct administration officials who are crafting the agenda to add a topic that has such profound and far-reaching effects for our planet. How we organize ourselves, which institutions are relevant and where we spend our funding will be determined by our aging population. Surely that’s worthy of some discussion by the G-8.

Source: Washington Post

Latest Developments

We keep our members and partners in touch with the most recent updates and opinions in the worldwide dialogue on population longevity and related issues.

A Bipartisan Bill Could Prevent The Next Pandemic

In Washington, Republicans and Democrats are typically at loggerheads when it comes to healthcare policy. Just consider the recent Inflation Reduction Act, which made extensive changes to Medicare and also extended Affordable Care Act subsidies. Every single congressional Democrat voted for the legislation, while every single member of the GOP voted against it. But occasionally, a bill is such an obviously good idea, and so desperately needed, that it commands significant bipartisan support. The PASTEUR Act, co-sponsored by 31 Democrats and 31 Republicans in the House and two members of each party in the Senate, is just such a bill.

Korea Must Act Now to Combat Growing AMR Threat

Public officials are overlooking one of the gravest long-term threats to the Korean people, the health system, and economy: antimicrobial resistance (AMR). Some pathogens ― bacteria, fungi, parasites, and viruses ― have evolved strains that resist the antimicrobial medications we currently have available to fight them. Health care professionals often must watch helplessly as patients succumb to infections that antibiotics could once have easily beaten. They know that new antimicrobials, including and especially antibiotics, could easily gain the victory ― but they have none at their disposal.

Policy Statement on the Impact of Price Negotiations on Innovation, Healthy Aging and Equity

As the CEO of the Global Coalition on Aging (GCOA) and a newly formed cross-sector Alliance for Health Innovation, we write to express our deep concern with the current legislation that allows for price “negotiations” in Medicare – a thinly veiled signal for America’s plunge into price controls that will have a devastating and adverse impact on biopharmaceutical innovation and our nations’ ability to support healthy aging. 

Ignoring the ‘Silver Economy’ May Be Getting Costly for Brands

In an ad for Airbnb that premiered earlier this year, a couple checks into a cozy Spanish villa. To the tune of Jay-Z's cover of "Me and My Girlfriend," the ad shows the pair settling into their rental and setting their collective dial to chill. They play ping-pong, sip some wine, and get ready for a night on the town. They're also in their 80s, celebrating their 57th wedding anniversary. In no way does the ad characterize the couple as elderly or portray them as needing special aid or services — they are just active people who happen to be old. It's a rare example of ads featuring a realistic depiction of aging.

Health Equity Promise and That Innovation Thing

President Biden has pledged his administration to defeat cancer, Alzheimer’s, and other diseases that target America’s aging population. To achieve these lofty goals, bold words must be backed up by bold actions.

Roundtable Report Highlights Importance of Immunizing Canada’s Caregivers Against Influenza, Identifying Challenges and Opportunities to Protect This Critical Group

The Global Coalition on Aging (GCOA) today released a report summarizing key insights from an expert roundtable on vaccinating Canada’s caregivers against influenza. The roundtable, held virtually, brought together leading Canadian health policy experts, family caregivers, patient advocacy groups, aging experts, and other thought leaders to discuss challenges and strategies to reach this critically important yet hard-to-reach group.