As we ring in 2023, the Global Coalition on Aging recalls four game changers for our global aging society during the seminal healthy aging year of 2022.
1. The Japanese government – with average longevity reaching 85 this year and, more notably, tilting rapidly towards 40% of its population being over 60 by the end of the decade – recognized the central need for healthcare policy change focusing on reimbursement and access for fragility fracture rehabilitation to avoid or mitigate the effect of a second fracture. Through insurance reforms effective April 22, “Evaluation for Continuous Secondary Fracture Prevention” and “Addition to Emergency Recovery and Fixation within 48 hours” for hip fracture…”, the Japanese government took a seminal step recognizing the huge impact of fragility fractures as a result of osteoporosis and bone health deterioration. Globally, these fractures have had some of the most devastating effects on healthy aging, too often missed, under-recognized and/or left to lower level attention. Reflecting this Japanese leadership, two powerful new papers are now available on the Decade of Healthy Ageing WHO Web Platform. Globally, we know up to 80% of those considered high risk who have already suffered their first fracture, are unidentified or untreated leading to worse outcomes; so, in 2022 the Japanese government paved the way to reforms for all of us. Within the UN Decade of Healthy Ageing, Japan’s leadership in ’22 will become a milestone for similar policy changes across the globe, where spending on rehabilitation after the first fracture is seen as an investment in healthy aging and more effective cost management.
2. Learning from Covid and the fundamentally essential need for health innovation during 2022, the world also saw the launch of a new kind of Health Innovation Alliance built on the principles of equity and healthy aging,
“Today, our world faces an urgent challenge – providing quality care to the rapidly growing population of older adults. The COVID-19 pandemic, like the HIV epidemic, highlight the seriousness of existing gaps in systems and programs. Government policies that enable patients to access the best care and most effective life-changing medicines are critically important in protecting against disparities related to aging and longevity,” said Rekha Ramesh, Vice President, Head of Global Policy at Gilead Sciences, Inc., a founding member of the Alliance. “At Gilead, it is our mission to deliver innovative therapies that positively impact outcomes for patients everywhere, and we are proud to join members of the Alliance in helping inform policy solutions – [ strong and powerful intellectual property rights and adequate, market/value based access and reimbursement policies] — to ensure those who need our therapies receive them in support of healthy aging.”
This new healthy aging innovation paradigm is applicable to the most profound needs of our time – from Alzheimer’s and Cancer to HIV and CVD. Moreover, the world also saw considerable progress in 2022 on the health innovation front related to the urgency of AMR impact on antibiotic innovation as a top G7 priority. Surely, in the second year of the Decade of Healthy Ageing it was not surprising that two of the most instrumental drivers for our 20th century longevity revolution – antibiotics and immunization played significant roles. The latter being an indicator of the increasing recognition that it is a prevention model for health systems that will enable more effective budget management and healthier aging further shows the growth already underway.
3. Nor was it a small matter when, in early ’22, the American Society on Aging (ASA) joined up with Shutterstock to show the way toward the UN Decade of Healthy Aging Combatting Ageism seminal goal. ASA and Shutterstock launched their initiative to guide advertisers, marketing executives, Diversity Equity and Inclusion Human Resource gurus, and the rest of us to reframe and reimagine 21st century aging. It was also not coincidental that during this years’ recognition of the 8th billion person being born, the notable Financial Times literally shifted the story from one about population growth to population aging
“Ageing, not population growth, is the most important demographic change of this century… Ageing is a major challenge for societies and economies because it adds strain on fiscal revenues and healthcare spending. The number of people aged 80, those more closely associated with health problems, rose to more than 150mn this year. This is more than double the figure 20 years ago. In response to this, many countries have started increasing the state retirement age from 65. Without further policy action… the declining share of the working age population in advanced economies is expected to drag down growth and living standards… nations’ healthcare systems also need to shift focus to earlier detection and prevention or we won’t be able to afford anything.”
4. From the OECD to major societies such as Canada and GCOA’s own Silver Economy Forum, efforts to elevate elder caregiving continued to make progress in 2022. But it wasn’t until the very end of ’22, when, in a little recognized piece on the Biden Administration’s “aim to boost workforce”, that elder caregiving appeared alongside conventional childcare “Top White House economic officials are considering a renewed push for a suite of policies aimed at luring more Americans back to work, including enhanced child-care and eldercare benefits…” began the article. Encouraged by government consideration, employers can now, in ’23, underscore that mid-life to older workers are an increasing factor in employment growth and if you want to retain or hire new workers, you’d better consider the value of the elder care benefit. This is new but should not be surprising in our second full year of The UN Decade of Healthy Ageing.
Progress on healthy aging was surely a hallmark of 2022. Our guess is that we are just getting started as the UN Decade of Healthy Ageing rolls to 2030, when more of us will be over 60 than under 15 and the transformation of work and retirement will be even more clear across the generations. In ’22 it was even more solidly pronounced that the Silver Economy powers overall economic growth, job creation and more stable political systems. What a great year for healthy aging. And now ringing in 2023!