G-20 Put Global Aging On The Agenda, But Did They Define Longevity As A Problem, Or An Opportunity?

The G-20, the world’s finance ministers and central bankers, are meeting in Japan. In keeping with the backdrop of Japan, the nation with the world’s fastest-aging population, global aging has made its way to the front of G-20’s agenda. Japanese Finance Minister Taro Aso is quoted as warning the world’s financial decision makers that they must act now to take “effective measures against it.”

Those who are invested in making the world a better place for older adults have reason to cheer such a move. The placement of population aging on the G-20’s agenda represents an “historic first” for the international forum. A report published by the Global Coalition on Aging in the lead-up to the meeting targets healthcare, finance, and urban design as three “critical topics” for policymakers—all important spheres for reform and innovation. Digging deeper into the report, one finds lifelong education, age-friendly communities, and improving quality-of-life as opposed to merely extending life being named as priorities—all of which I have myself have argued for in the past.

But the announcement of G-20’s attention to global aging nonetheless has me disappointed. Why? It’s all about the language.

We’ll start with the warning of Taro Aso. “Effective measures” brings to mind dire language in other policy domains, such as that used by public health officials to command action against the flu or a modern epidemic. Elsewhere, in articles in major publications leading up to the forum,we find global aging being spoken of as a “global risk,” something that is “sounding alarms,” a “challenge” to be faced, like a dragon bellowing and crashing at the gates.

While it is difficult to identify when longer life, longevity, became rhetorically synonymous with crisis, it is sad that the G-20 is framing aging in terms of risks alone — ballooning healthcare costs, pensions running bust, and a declining workforce. But, here is the reality, how an issue is socially defined sets the range of possible policy and market alternatives. In this case, aging is being framed as a health and pension problem to be solved, not as a market and policy innovation opportunity to be realized.

Perhaps it is the penchant of economists to rely on historic data that blinds them to a new opportunity hiding in plain sight. The older adults of today are profoundly different than those of previous generations. They are in better health, more active, and more ambitious about how they want to spend their “retirement” years. With these developments in mind, the shape of the “challenge” ahead of global policymakers and businesses ought to appear very different..

The G-20 decision-makers are correct that an aging population poses real challenges to businesses and policymakers alike — that is, if we continue to frame and address longer life as the same as it was decades, even centuries ago. But instead of portraying the growing number of older adults as a wave about to crash down on us, maybe governments and companies should start looking at it instead as an untapped opportunity — a new global longevity economy with endless possibilities and lifestyles yet to be envisioned.

One encouraging sign is that the framing the experts use changes depending on where you look. At the highest level, from the mouths of finance ministers and in international press releases, the vocabulary of risk and epidemic remains prominent. But go a little deeper, such as into the Global Coalition on Aging, the collaborative think tank that wrote the report driving G-20’s aging agenda, and you find talk about a global “opportunity”, “new possibilities,” a focus on “activity,“productivity,” andeven “happiness.” Those working closest to older adults recognize that the zeitgeist is changing. And even if the forum’s language isn’t up to speed, G-20’s “historic” attention to aging is both a sign of how far we’ve come and how much more is left to be done.

Source: Forbes

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.