As we welcome a new year, 2018 will mark the turning point in how, across the planet, we handle the aging of society. It’s not just that we are getting closer to the moment in 2020 when there will be 1 billion of us over 60, but also that the shift towards more old than young is also profoundly changing due to the parallel phenomenon of lower birthrates. Nor is it surprising, then, that as we get closer to 2020, it is also the moment when the World Health Organization will declare the Decade of Health Ageing: 2020-30.
So, as we welcome 2018, we ought to understand that this mega trend is not “about aging,” which tends to focus on the problems and challenges of more old people, but “because of aging,” which gives us the strategic screen for solutions.
Here then, are four places where we can start to apply the “because of aging” transformative lens to set ourselves on a far more sustainable path:
- In Japan, the oldest society on the planet, we now have the paradox of the highest number of open jobs to applicants in over 40 years. But, that number is still geared to a traditional 20th-century working age that stops in one’s mid-sixties. If Japan were to include older Japanese as valuable workers and producers, not just consumers, you can bet they would begin closing the gap between jobs available and applicants. This also brings the added benefit of healthier aging. Prime Minister Abe should, in 2018, add “Agenomics” to his “Abenomics” and “Womenomics” themes. At a Blackrock Retirement Institute – Global Coalition on Aging Roundtable in Tokyo, not long ago, this shift in working life was precisely the point. If Japan is our global age demographic future, stay tuned for their changes in 2018, not least as the government prepares for its G-20 Leadership in 2019.
- While not the only reason for a fundamental shift in how we use innovative technology to monitor and deliver care, watch closely in 2018 as remote care monitoring and delivery expands globally to apply to older citizens. Remote care at home and in other settings will begin to become a new standard of care in 2018, replacing the centuries-old hospital, physician office, and clinic. As Dave Ryan of Intel noted at the recent Connected Health Conference in Boston, Mass, “An increasingly connected world is fueling industries from manufacturing to entertainment with the enormous benefits of merging data with technology, thus enabling end-user interaction in better and more personal ways than ever before. Healthcare is no exception. What the Connected Health Conference demonstrated is that we are at a rare inflection point. Healthcare stakeholders are aligned, aided by the indisputable evidence in efficacy, and with technological breakthrough already underway, the remote care revolution is imminent, set to improve patient access and patient outcomes, while creating efficiencies and lowering costs.” Because of the needs of an aging society, look for this sea-change in 2018.
- If we will see stepped up changes on work and retirement in 2018, we can also look for changes in healthcare to include “conditions of aging” as part of the mix for prevention and wellness. During the past decade, we have seen a shift from more traditional “communicable diseases” to “non-communicable diseases” – cardiovascular disease, diabetes, COPD, and cancer, as well as Alzheimer’s, which is near perfectly correlated with aging. Yet, in 2018, look for an even more basic shift because of aging, where, , as Dr. John Beard of the WHO has said, public health policy must increasingly be measured by functional ability and not only absence or treatment of disease. Skin health, overactive bladder, vision, hearing loss, and bone and muscle mass deterioration will all in 2018 become essential parts of our health concerns as we redefine and reimagine healthy aging to include active aging.
- In 2018, also expect to see startups, tech and otherwise, to continue to seize market opportunities “because of aging.” One such areas is in elder care, which was re-invented by Paul and Lori Hogan a little over 20 years ago through their Home Instead Senior Care, which is now a global business. In 2018, we now see the most pressing challenge for elder caregiving is the huge number of caregivers that home care companies will need to deliver their care, largely and increasingly in our homes. One such start-up is EasyCare Academy, which is using a digitized, web-based and therefore global platform to offer online training and education to the new cadre of elder caregivers and anyone else who wants and needs more information on the topic. Watch this space in 2018 to see how an innovative tech company can deliver online training from China to U.S., Europe to Argentina.
If you want to understand this “aging thing,” then think big trends that shape culture, public policy, and markets. Environment, gender, and technology all come to mind. We are poised in 2018 to truly benefit from the aging megatrend, whether you’re already old and living with your 21st century longevity, or you will live your life across our 21st century and become old a hundred years from now.
Happy New Year!