Spotlight on: Longevity

From diet and exercise to brain games to keep the mind younger, from the best places to grow old to harnessing medical breakthroughs… we’ve tried it all and continue to do so in the quest for an extended life-span. Explore selected PwC insights on what could lie in store for a planet and its people determined to live forever.

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Longevity: the age-old challenge

One of human nature’s more myopic tendencies is our seeming inability to contemplate getting old until, well, we’re getting old. A new drug now promises an extended life span to mice … and possibly man, according to a recent issue of Time magazine. Mice, under this treatment, have an average life span that’s 1.77 times longer. If the same were applied to humans, we could see life extending to 142 years. But, while disrupting the ageing process could carry a number of rewards, it carries its own risks and challenges.

Let’s face it, today’s ageing population isn’t the same as it perhaps was in your grandfather’s day. As the Economist reported recently, Japan is “serving as the world’s laboratory for selling to older consumers” with companies prototyping a whole range of products aimed squarely at the so-called ‘Grand Generation’. One area likely to see major growth from older consumers is the digital health sector. As outlined in Health wearables: Early days, as wearable technology becomes cheaper and more sophisticated, and data quality improves, these devices and their associated apps will become a part of consumers’ lives and the health ecosystem.

Unlike their predecessors, the new grey brigade will be digitally savvy and expect technology to be integrated into, and add value to their daily lives. How companies and governments innovate to meet the expectations and needs of an older generation that still has much to contribute will be crucial for maintaining social and economic balance in an increasingly uncertain world.

Getting old used to have limited consequences in a global society where, for the most part, people didn’t live that long. Increasingly though, thanks to a growing middle class and the improvements to diet and healthcare that come with that economic status, millions more of us are living longer.

On the one hand then, longevity is a great triumph of the modern world. At the same time, however, as our We the urban people report points out, the ‘greying planet’ megatrend could foreshadow broad, global challenges to business and economic performance. These include the healthcare sector, social services, and pension systems that risk being overwhelmed by a massive shift in elderly populations, while fewer working-age people to support such systems compounds the problem.

Mitigating these challenges is the fact that the majority of the elderly will live in cities – Tokyo and Seoul have already experienced a significant ageing in their demographics and they’ll soon be joined by the likes of Berlin, Madrid and Milan. Already cities are getting smart in how they build infrastructure, create employment opportunities and provide social services to enhance the lives of older citizens.

“By 2025 there are going to be one billion more people on the planet, 300 million of which will be people aged over 65.”

This shift in age demographics will also have profound effects on the products and services companies must offer to stay competitive. For example, the financial services sector will need to shift from lending towards helping people to fund and manage their retirements as people live longer and state support declines.

So, from technological advances to healthcare innovations, new financial prospects and demographic challenges - while the opportunities created by longevity are abundant, they sit firmly against a backdrop of ever-growing risks.

Find out more:

  • See how ageing affects major emerging market economies as well as existing developed countries in The World in 2050
  • Find out how mobile technology can help make healthcare more acces¬sible, faster, better and cheaper in Emerging mHealth: Paths for growth
  • Canadians are demanding greater access to their information and more personalised experiences in Making Care Mobile
  • Find out what the next ten years hold for the UK’s National Health Service in NHS@75: Towards a healthy state
  • Explore PwC's Health Research Institute (HRI) for the latest intelligence, perspectives, and analysis on trends affecting all health-related industries.
  • Take a look at the Golden Age Index which rates the success of countries in harnessing the economic power of older workers.

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Suzanne Snowden
Director, Global Thought Leadership
Tel: +44 (0) 20 7212 5481
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