How will we disrupt aging before aging disrupts economic growth?

Building an engaged aging strategy

It is time to recognize the current demographic shift for the disruptive force that it is, on par with technological dislocations such as artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things. It is not hyperbole to say the costs of treating diseases of aging threaten to overwhelm health systems and the agendas of companies and governments around the globe.

In January 2017, Robert Marchand, a dapper, 105-year-old Frenchman with the aerobic fitness of someone less than half his age, set a new world record for his age bracket, cycling 14 miles in one hour. Marchand, who has vowed to continue his training, is exceptional. Physically fit, socially connected and intellectually engaged, he is a poster child for healthy aging and the repositioning of elderly as “wellderly.”

He is also still the exception.

For every Marchand, there are thousands more seniors with serious health problems, from cardiovascular disease to Type 2 diabetes to Alzheimer’s. As societies globally have made great strides in reducing infant mortality and death from infectious disease, we are living longer. But while we have made inroads in preventing heart disease and treating certain cancers, we are not necessarily living better.

The issue is already acute in Asia-Pacific, where a 71% increase in the number of people 65 or older by 2030 is projected. Indeed, in its Global Risks Report 2017, the World Economic Forum lists aging populations as one of the top five drivers of global change, alongside growing income and wealth disparity and climate change.

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