“Healthy aging is a lifelong pursuit. It doesn’t begin at age 50 or 60 or 65. Likewise, it doesn’t just happen, and it’s not something you can do alone,” says AARP CEO Jo Ann Jenkins. “We need to empower societies around the world to both embrace the opportunities of aging to the fullest extent possible and address the attendant challenges. That is why we brought together leading experts in health, economics and aging for this year’s Global Conference — to redefine health and develop new approaches to how we live and age so that everybody in every country can have the opportunity to live a long and healthy life.”
Designing a society with older adults in mind
Some communities, cities and countries already have a blueprint for what healthy aging can look like. For example, Singapore — which is highlighted in this year’s “The Aging Readiness and Competitiveness Report” from AARP and Economist Impact — has implemented what Dzau calls “an all-government, all-society approach.”
Representatives from different government agencies (health, housing, transport, etc.) work with each other and with medical experts, community leaders and health care providers to craft policies and programs that benefit older adults. The country has also reorganized its health care system to focus on preventive and holistic care at the local level.
“Everybody has a role to play when it comes to designing a society that supports healthy aging,” says Debra Whitman, AARP’s executive vice president and chief public policy officer. “Breaking down silos and encouraging collaboration drives innovation. And right now, we need all hands on deck.”
Taiwan incentivizes hospitals and clinics to provide high-quality, age-friendly health care, and it has inspired similar efforts in other countries, including South Korea, Austria and Greece. Thailand and Uruguay are building more sustainable long-term care systems to ensure that older adults receive high-quality care that fits their needs, and that workers are equipped to provide it.
“There are plenty of successful examples out there that can be replicated throughout the world,” says Jean Accius, senior vice president of global thought leadership at AARP. “We are at a crossroad where we need to reassess, redefine and reprioritize what health means in a world facing significant demographic shifts. A healthy population is a more productive population, which translates into a more competitive and economically viable population. Restructuring our societies to better serve the health of older adults needs to be a priority.”