Growing Old in New York Can Be Healthier

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New York City is well-known as the financial capital of the world. Perhaps less well recognized is the city’s powerful status in matters of medical science and healthcare. But next week on Thursday, January 18th, the Financial Wellness Symposium being held at Bank of America Merrill Lynch Offices down in the Wall Street area will bring those two together with another, equally visible factor, namely, the aging of New York. And, not so coincidentally, earlier in the week, we will also have the awards event for the Age Friendly New York Sloan Foundations Age Smart Employers.

Financial Wellness is a useful double entendre on the powerful ideas that: a) there is today a longevity economy, which requires a re-imagination of how we live our lives in our post-60 years; and, b) there is an economic sustainability for both individual and urban financial health, itself dependent on a healthier and more active aging that can come about from a re-framing of healthcare from disease management to wellness and prevention measured by functional ability. That there are increasingly more of us in this older category in New York itself, reaching a full 20% of the City’s population over the next decade is reason enough to hold the Financial Wellness Conference in Age Friendly New York.

That our Financial and Personal Health are bound up in medical as well as financial institutional transformations to accommodate the aging of society is further proof that the setting here in NYC is well placed. NYC is not a bad model for the rest of the country, where older adults are an increasing, powerful force driving economic growth in today’s market. More interestingly, a full 70% of America’s purchasing power is held by those 60 and older. They own 67% of bank deposits and are six times more loyal to their primary financial institutions than younger customers. According to the most recent data from the Investment Company Institute, retirement assets in the United States are close to $25 trillion – more than a third of all household financial assets. People over 50 also account for 70% of charitable donations.

Yet, as people age, they face significant challenges to financial health, including difficulty planning and saving for retirement, age discrimination in the workplace, cost of living and health care expenses, inaccessible digital and physical space, diminished capacity to manage finances, and increased vulnerability to fraud and abuse.

But, what are some of the core themes we can expect next week?

  1. Rethinking, restructuring, and reframing the idea of retirement. In today’s world when we can keep working into our 60s, 70s, and beyond, the social and financial norm of retiring in your 60s is dramatically outdated. Instead, employers need to realize the immense potential of their older employees, and develop programs to support them as they work past traditional retirement age, even if they do so differently. This requires a mix of a number of new models, such as flexible working arrangements, part-time work, encore careers, and others. We need financial services to shift to support new approaches to saving during working years and spending later in life. Not surprisingly, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, BlackRock, and Aegon are leading the way on this transformation. At the same time, new, innovative treatments, and spending on wellness and prevention from the likes of Pfizer, Novartis, and others show a transforming notion of health as a retirement investment, rather than cost.
  2. Innovations for healthy, active aging. The rapid, widespread aging of populations demands new strategies in how we approach health, prevention, and elder care. Pioneers in the healthcare, pharmaceutical, and technology industries are developing the innovations that will enable us to reduce costs, improve health outcomes, and reshape lives for more active aging. In particular, remote care and remote patient monitoring are creating a new standard of care, as essential tools for older people and care teams. At the same time, new models to train caregivers promise to help people better navigate this daily challenge. And innovation in the pharmaceutical sector can deliver treatments, prevention, or outright cures for the age-related diseases that threaten global society, particularly Alzheimer’s.
  3. A larger and more profound cultural shift in the way we think about aging. Age-Friendly New York City has been at the forefront of this shift globally, developing policies and programming focusing on public safety, the built environment, media/arts/culture, and professions to make our communities better for our older citizens. And adding in the business perspective alongside with the Age-Friendly Business Principles, we can truly begin to accommodate the aging of our global society. Now more than ever, we consider and include older adults as we design our transportation systems, hire new employees, write legislation, and open up our classroom doors.

So, if you’re anywhere in or around NYC the week of January 16, after you celebrate Martin Luther King Day, you might want to hang around for tips on a healthier, more active and financially rewarding longevity. It will be well worth it.

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