As a 58 year old human being, I’m starting to think a lot about the concept of thriving as my body ages. I’ve never had an interest in the typical Western senior-hood of turning 65, becoming immediately frail, retiring and spending my time waiting to decline. I’ve done my best to remain healthy and fit and plan to enjoy life as an Elder.
For me, it’s not about avoiding ageing. It’s about optimising my physical, mental, professional, financial and spiritual health in order to enjoy life as an Elder. I intend to remain relevant, continue contributing to society and giving back to my community for as long as possible. And with the average life expectancy in Canada, now running at 82.96 years, I plan to spend as little of it in a state of sickness as I possibly can. But is this realistic?
Apparently, yes! As it turns out, there are a lot of people thinking along the same lines. But before we delve into that, let’s explore more about human longevity.
→ Living a 100+ year life requires a different approach from the traditional 3 stage life of Learn/Earn/Retire
→ Age tech will enable people to stay physically active, with care delivered in a deeply personalized, data-driven manner
→ Thriving while ageing means longer employment which in turn boosts consumerism and overall GDP growth
Longevity refers to long-lived members of a population and has long been the topic of fascination in science as well as for writers, filmmakers and all manner of storytellers. One of my personal favourites is Dr. Who, a British TV show that’s as old as I am. An icon of TV Sci-Fi, the long-running series explores the journeys of a Time Lord who fights evil in the universe along with his besties in a time-travelling space ship called the Tardis. And who isn’t still fascinated by The Picture of Dorian Gray, the Oscar Wilde story of a beautiful young man who opted to sell his soul rather than age.
Of course, none of us are Dr. Who and most of us certainly wouldn’t sell our souls to remain young, which leaves the rest of us wondering what the Golden Years will feel like if our bodies start to decline and our minds fade. Seeing this happen to our parents can be an alarming experience, especially since roughly 25% of the variation in human longevity can be attributed to genes. That’s great if you’re an optimist, as the remaining 75% is deeply impacted by individual behaviours, combined with environmental factors which may or may not be under one’s control.
With more of us living longer than ever before, the prospect of doing so in good health becomes more sought after than ever. And with foresight, and planning, it appears to be more attainable than ever. We already know that lifestyle change is a major factor.
But is there an economic story to be told here as well?
The Finances of Longevity
We are already seeing the rise of two important demographic trends; an increase in the number of seniors as a percentage of the overall population, and an increase in the duration of life. Both of these trends exert a significant impact on society and the economy. If people on average are living longer, healthier lives, this fact should be positive for the economy and will create longevity dividends by boosting consumerism and overall GDP growth, which in turn creates new personal and professional opportunities for mature people.
An important component of boosting employment is the extension of working lives. Living longer lives will demand longer working careers for financial sustainability, yet it wouldn’t make sense to respond to longer lives simply by extending the retirement age and stretching out a traditional three-stage sequence of learn, earn, and retire. The prospect sounds exhausting and unrealistic.
A new approach is needed. According to Gratton and Scott, this could take the form of a multi-stage career that incorporates a delayed start to working life, time for career transitions, adult education, along with time to care for both children and older parents. This approach to a 100-year + life will impact not only those entering this phase, but also future generations who will need to plan accordingly with respect to the mental, physical and financial implications of a sustained life.
In addition, the global Longevity Economy is projected to reach $33Trillion by 2026, with the AgeTech segment alone projected to reach $2.7Trillion by 2025. In Canada, investors are hungry to put their money into this fast-growing sector, and they’re investing in a wide variety of Age Tech that is touted to help people live better, longer and more productive lives.
The discipline of Longevity is broken up into 4 main areas: Geroscience (the study of how ageing processes enable diseases), P4 Medicine (making medicine more Predictive, Preventive, Personalised and Participatory), Longevity Finance and Age Tech.
Age Tech is a segment of exciting tech innovations that help mature people stay physically active, enable Living-In-Place with smart home technology that will assist with things like early detection and management of chronic disease, maintenance of social connections and continued engagement in the workforce to ensure financial stability and sustainability.
Simple-to-use wearable devices allow healthcare consumers to track their own health metrics in real time, and in an ideal world, easily share with their Circle of Care. With information, data and real-time intelligence, care can be delivered in a much more personalised manner. Not only can medical information be collected and delivered, but general wellness is facilitated with wearable devices that track exercise, nutrition, sleep and more. Never before have humans had the ability to monitor their own health with more precision or address health issues with increasing self-administration.
The exploding focus on Longevity is not only necessary to address the current situation with an ageing population, it’s also an exciting opportunity to enable society at large to benefit from the wisdom and experience that older people bring to the table, and ensure that future generations will benefit from a scientific and financial focus on Thriving While Ageing.
Many of my friends and peers are already tracking how many steps they take each day, regularly measuring blood pressure and other vital signs, focusing on eating well and staying mentally sharp and healthy, as well as living a rich spiritual life. Let us know – what steps are you taking to Thrive While You Age?
Stay tuned to The Health Insider as we bring you Longevity breakthroughs, insights and innovations that will help you and your loved ones live your most Thriving Life.