A New Older World: Ideas for an Innovative Social Contract

Aging Today’s end-of-year 2018 In Focus section, “Global Aging and the Future of the World Community,” is prescient as it is the perfect set-up to 2019, which heralds the tipping point for the mega-trend of population aging. Global leaders from the WHO to the IMF, including my own Global Coalition on Aging, in 2019 are preparing for what will become the De­cade of Healthy Ageing. This WHO initiative kicks off in 2020 following the World Health Assem­bly, as a central piece of the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals.

Today it is clear that underlying demographic realities of aging—100-year lives for those born in the 21st century and a global population that is now more old than young—prompt businesses and governments alike, from Japan and Chile, across the European Union to China, Brazil, Turkey and the United States, to re-imagine how we live, learn, work and play.

What shall we do with our much longer lives? How do we live our lives and serve as models for our children and grandchildren to live theirs? How will we organize society in light of this pro­found transformation? What public policies and institutions will survive, and in what form? And what new constructs are needed for success at this historic moment?

A New Social Contract for Longer Lives

Some have suggested we need a new social contract—one that will remain relevant for a century in which longevity and population aging (more old than young) is the norm. And while there is much to be done to ensure healthier aging, it is equally important that there be active aging. The colloquium in the WHO Initiative will track the major issues to be addressed and point to solutions that will replace 20th century norms. Consider the following three ideas that will help shape the Decade of Healthy Age­ing and reframe institutions, markets and public policy to leverage the aging opportunity for shared social values and continued economic growth.

Institutional Change: A culture shift in the core institutional structures of society—education, work, leisure and healthcare—first will require an end to ageism. It is that subtle, even subliminal set of attitudes that lead to everything from assumptions about when and how we educate ourselves, how long and in what ways we work and even what health conditions warrant dedicated research and spending.

Simply attaching an additional 30 to 40 years of life onto the mid-20th century life span con­struct is unworkable and dissatisfying. And, change will not happen without a most basic culture shift to assume that life can be just as active and fulfilling in the later decades as it was in earlier years. Furthermore, the promise of a full life for today’s children must expect and incorporate value as they get old.

Critically, the understanding of and expunging of ageism does not mean there is special privilege; rather, it is precisely the reverse—that opportunities for a full life and functional ability (as the new WHO Ageing and Health Strategy contemplates) be as possible and promising for people in their 70s, 80s and beyond as they are for people in their 20s and 30s. Championing ongoing education across the life span, creating new opportunities during the so-called retirement phase and treating spending as investments in healthy aging at all ages is a mutually valuable set of goals for everyone.

Markets: Healthcare and financial services companies have already understood the huge market growth and business development opportunities in targeting the older-than-age 60 demographic. But with 70 percent of disposable income in the United States, and a growing number of other countries being held by those older than age 60, how can all businesses—retail, consumer, fashion, entertain­ment, technology and travel—not look for such market opportunity? Businesses must understand that planning for longer lives starts well before age 60, which opens an even larger economic and market opportunity—a whole cohort of consumers who recognize that maximizing our longevity will be a re­sult of decisions that challenge conventional wisdom and which must be made along the life course.

As businesses realize the older-than-age 60 demographic is a target market, surely it will follow that employers also will employ people older than age 60. For example, Home Instead Senior Care recognizes that older caregivers generally connect best with their clients, who are primarily older adults. Up to a third of Home Instead’s caregiving workforce is older than age 60. In New York City—one of the globally premier Age-Friendly Cities—the accounting firm PKF O’Connor Davies this year received an Age Smart Employer award, an initiative of the Robert N. Butler Columbia Aging Center and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. PFK O’Connor Davies actively recruits older ac­countants who were forced to retire from other firms; more than a third of its accountants are older than age 50. Also honored this year was Steinway & Sons; the company recognizes the value of experience and human craftsmanship in manufacturing great pianos and has built an internal advancement structure to retain workers for decades—some for as many as 50 years.

This new understanding of markets is leading the Global Coalition on Aging to convene the first global business conference on aging on July 9–10, 2019, in Helsinki, Finland. Working with global business leaders, we aim to guide employers across all sectors in how the aging demographic is good for their business strategies, their workplaces and their social engagement with the community. From Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s on-staff financial gerontologist and Philips’ exit from the lighting business to focus on health to Bayer’s corporate-wide commitment to healthy aging, com­panies across diverse sectors will share why aging is a critical lens through which they are viewing some of their most important business decisions.

Public Policy: Even if we begin to change the culture, root out ageism and lift business oppor­tunities toward an aging society, we will still need public policy to provide incentives and reduce the barriers of disincentives. Good areas to start might be elder caregiving, remote care and innova­tive therapies—all channels to enable healthier and more active aging.

Policymakers must recognize that caring for aging loved ones is the new normal; today’s sys­tems for providing and financing eldercare needs do not reflect this reality. We need tax and sav­ings vehicles that help people save for aging in place (e.g., to pay for homecare services, assistive technologies, home renovations) and reimbursement models that reflect effective, efficient deliv­ery of remote-care technology. Re-imagining, redefining and restructuring care cannot wait be­cause, while human aging is not new, the aging of our societies is.

Policymakers must embrace, encourage and facilitate innovation through policies that pursue steady progress against diseases and conditions associated with aging. Investments in incremental innovation must be made to lead to the breakthrough therapies that will revolutionize healthy ag­ing for generations to come.

Source: Aging Today

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.

What Old Age Might Be Like for Today’s 30-Year-Olds

Get ready for a new old age. With the U.S. fertility rate in a decadelong slump and the life expectancy of 65-year-old Americans approaching roughly 85, our aging nation is likely to grow older by midcentury, as the ratio of young to old continues to decline. The trend is likely to upend how our society is organized, making life very different for today’s 30-year-olds when they reach their 60s compared with life for 60-year-olds now.

World Population Reaches 8bn As It Grows Older

The world’s population reached 8bn people on Tuesday and will hit 9bn in 15 years as it experiences an unprecedented surge in the number of older people, according to the latest UN data. The global fertility rate has more than halved since the 1950s to 2.3 births per woman. With mortality also falling, the number of people aged 65 and over is expected to rise from 783mn in 2022 to 1bn by 2030 and reach 1.4bn by 2043, the UN population data revealed.

Global Coalition on Aging (GCOA) Launches Cross-Sector Alliance Committed to Health Innovation at High-Level Forum on The Silver Economy

Today, the Global Coalition on Aging (GCOA), along with cross-sector stakeholders representing patient advocacy, policy, industry, and academic communities, announced the launch of the Alliance for Health Innovation at the High-Level Forum on the Silver Economy in New York. The Alliance is dedicated to establishing the importance of innovation in achieving healthy aging and health equity through investments, policy reforms, and strategic partnerships.

Japan Must Face Up to Growing Danger of Drug-resistant Germs

In the wake of more than 6.4 million COVID-19 deaths worldwide and unprecedented economic destruction, the global community has no excuse to be caught unprepared for the next pandemic. Yet right now, a devastating parallel plague is already underway and worsening. Some years, it is killing well over 1 million people, according to medical journal The Lancet.

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.