Ageing, Our Best Opportunity
Professor Nic Palmarini shared about healthy longevity and the opportunities of a longevity economy.
Over the course of the last half-century, life expectancy has continued to increase steadily by two years each decade. It’s almost as if for every decade we have lived, we have gained an extra 20 per cent free, Professor Nic Palmarini – Director of UK’s National Innovation Centre for Ageing (NICA) – shared in the fourth instalment of the Healthy Ageing lecture series. This, together with other demographic and societal factors has led to an increase in the number of older people. Together with climate change, ageing is the other mega trend happening to our planet today. And the two trends are heavily correlated to each other as the COVID-19 Pandemic, if we’d needed any confirmation, showed us.
Ageing is still often seen as a sign for ill health, inactivity, and decline. Ageism, the stereotyping, and discrimination of people based on their age, is a very real problem in society. This is pervasive across society: from language and narrative, to hiring practices, to the prevalence and widespread promotion of youth and “anti-ageing” practices and products, which aim to mask or avoid the natural ageing process. However, it is a common mistake to assume that older age is a significant problem. In fact, a growing older population can bring many opportunities and benefits to communities, the workplace, and the economy.
In the “The Longevity Economy” by Dr Joseph Coughlin, founder and director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology AgeLab, he shares that only 35 per cent of people over 75 said that they felt old, and it stands to reason that if a person does not feel old that they would not buy a product for the old. However, it is important to underline with respect to what Coughlin says that if the concept of the equivalent age is to be considered, it must take into account not only physical or biological aspects but also a crucial value, experience and human capital. We could therefore say that, according to the forecasts of the Italian Institute of Statistics (ISTAT), in 2060 we could reach 76 and 79 years of age in order to be able to find a condition of seniority that has the same value as the 65 years identified in a male subject in 1960, but with 10 to 15 years more life experience. This opens up markets for a number of services and products related to lifestyle – such as fashion, transportation, nutrition, entertainment, and financial management – where older people may still want to showcase their individuality through trendy clothing.
What’s more, we are reaching old age in generally better health than people in the past. There is no fixed programme for ageing – which is caused instead by the lifelong accumulation of damage – meaning that the ageing process is much more malleable than we think. Increasingly, there is more information and potential solutions on living longer and better lives.
As we push back against ageism, organisations are also beginning to understand that the ageing population represents a unique demographic that hosts a variety of opportunities – that spans from work to personal interactions: such as opening up online coworking platforms or online dating opportunities and reinforcing that innovation or beauty is not defined by age. In addition, older people offer a wealth of experience and knowledge that can be shared among organisations and other people to further our understanding of the world. Good ideas have no age.
The time is now to redefine traditional notions of ageing, embrace longevity across cultures and the opportunities that come with it, and improve many lives in the process.
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