Sunday, January 29, 2017

What The Great Thinkers About Aging Are Thinking

The Economist’s jam-packed San Francisco conference Wednesday on The Business of Longevity (Next Avenue was a supporting association) had a tinge of irony. That day, the National Center for Health Statistics released a report stating that U.S. life expectancy had declined for the first time since 1993.

But the conference’s theme prevailed: The way we all think about longevity needs to broaden if businesses and consumers are to have meaningful success in the future.

The high-powered gathering featured world-renowned experts ranging from Next Avenue 2016 Influencers in Aging David Lindeman (director of the Center for Technology and Aging) and Paul Irving (chairman of the Milken Institute for the Future of Aging) to biochemist J. Craig Venter (co-founder and CEO of Human Longevity and one of the first to sequence the human genome).

Panelists offered their insights and challenges to the roughly 200 attendees on key aspects of aging — from the latest disruptive technologies to how other nations are approaching the needs of their elder communities.

“We need to stay human — and in a technology society, that can be hard,” said Lindeman. Then, challenging the audience, he added: “We need the brightest minds to start tackling the biggest issues we have around policy.”

Highlights from the conference:

The Need to Redefine Longevity

Thomas Goetz, co-founder and CEO of Iodine — a health technology company whose mission is to turn medical research data into tools for ordinary people to make better decisions about their health — noted that longevity and health care are typically seen as the same thing. But, Goetz, said, they’re not. “Longevity is so much more,” noted Goetz.

He urged the audience to look at the bigger picture and recognize that personal longevity is impacted by our financial situation, social environment and institutional policies.

Many panelists echoed this viewpoint. They were particularly cheered by Wednesday’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announcement that will affect the nation’s 30 million older Americans suffering from hearing loss. Effective immediately, the FDA said it no longer requires adults to receive a medical evaluation or sign a waiver before buying most hearing aids. This news may help prove Goetz’s point that aging solutions are not purely medical in nature.

The announcement was heralded among conference participants as the type of new thinking needed around the definition of “aging products,” as well as a prime example of how institutional polices need to adapt to longevity realities.

What Leads to Financial Problems of Older People

As one session’s panelists noted that wealthy Americans live longer, on average, than those who are economically strained, there was considerable discussion of the factors that can lead to financial problems for older people.

One consensus view: The traditional retirement age of 65 is a “false age” that creates financial stress.

As more of us live into our 80s and 90s, the economics of a two- or three-decade retirement are simply not feasible anymore for most people.

Workers need to plan and save for retirement at earlier ages, the experts agreed. But the speakers also felt employers must play a more significant role in the new reality of aging. Flexible retirement ages, transitional work options and job creation for people over 65 were all cited as examples of what should be on the to-do list at businesses and nonprofits.

Jacquelyn James, co-director of Boston College’s Center on Aging & Work, lamented results from her center’s survey showing that many employers don’t have the aging workforce and its unique needs on the “company agenda.” She also cited workers’ conundrum of discussing retirement options with employers. Most people, James said, are afraid to signal any interest in leaving the workforce.

This prevents the collaboration between employers and employees that is imperative to drive change.

Full Article & Source:
What The Great Thinkers About Aging Are Thinking


Betty said...

Interesting that longevity has declined now with all the advances in medical treatments.

Barbara said...

I appreciate this article very much, but what I appreciate more is hearing from the real experts, elderly people, their families, and caregivers.