Aging not playing-out as expected: It’s better

Leading academic calls for shift on “simple-minded reliance on chronological age”.

Next month, London plays host to The Longevity Week, an initiative of The Longevity Forum, a not-for-profit initiative committed to achieving longer, healthier and more fulfilled lives for as many people as possible. The theme of this year’s event is “Longevity 2030,” which offers participants a platform to explore the ideas and innovations that will shape humanity over the next decade.

Andrew Scott is the co-founder of The Longevity Forum and Professor of Economics and former Deputy Dean at London Business School. His research focuses on Longevity, an aging society, fiscal policy and debt management, and he is also a member of the UK Government’s Longevity Council. Professor Scott’s book, with Lynda Gratton, The Hundred Year Life has been published in 15 languages and is an Amazon best seller.

Professor Scott told us more about his work in Longevity and the future of aging.

Longevity.Technology: You’re co-founder of the Longevity Forum – why is Longevity such an important subject right now?
Professor Scott: For a long while there has been talk of an aging society – how as we live for longer and fewer children are born society consists of more old people. Everyone has known it is coming but it is now finally beginning to be felt across society in a number of ways. However, this is not playing out in the simple way people imagined. People are living longer and are on average healthier for longer even though healthspan isn’t matching lifespan. That’s raising a lot of issues that I consider to be a longevity agenda. How do we as individuals and a society respond to longer lives? How do we prepare ourselves for longer careers? When do we make best use of this extra time? How do we construct a life that increases our chances of aging well? How can we exploit new technologies and new knowledge that offer us the opportunity to age better?

Basically, we have discovered that aging is more malleable than we thought, we are living longer and have more time and need to reshape our lives accordingly. That has enormous implications for us as individuals and our relationships, for firms both in terms of workers and consumers; and offers opportunities for new products with outstanding value. It also creates an extensive government agenda.

Longevity.Technology: What do you feel are the most interesting developments happening in Longevity at the moment?
Professor Scott: In terms of tech, the most astounding developments are those around trying to understand the aging process and the potential treatments that can come from that. There is still much to be discovered and implementation will inevitably be slower than people hope or expect but a raft of potential discoveries, big and small, are possible. On the non-tech side, to me, the most extraordinary change is the shift in the number of people over 50 who are working.

That accounts for the majority of job growth in the UK, Japan, Germany and US just to name a few. Everyone worried about an aging society and how it would lead to worsening public finances and slower economic growth but right now it is showing up in the employment numbers and boosting GDP.

Longevity.Technology: What do you feel are the key hurdles facing the Longevity sector over the next few years and how can these be overcome?
Professor Scott: I think many of the ingredients are here in the UK – high quality R&D, market scale, strong academic and corporate interest. The important thing is forming networks and alliances that help build together expertise and practice and I can begin to see that happening.

Longevity.Technology: In November, you are supporting Longevity Week. How can the UK become a Longevity leader, with countries like Singapore, Israel and Switzerland advancing fast?
Professor Scott: Longevity Week has many aims. For my part, focusing on the behavioural and policy side of the agenda, I see it as raising awareness of a positive longevity agenda compared to a negative aging society narrative. Getting major decision makers in government and the corporate sector aware of what is happening and getting involved in the agenda and raising debate as to what we can do to support longer healthier more fulfilled lives for everyone.

Longevity.Technology: And finally – if you had the power to change one thing about the world during Longevity Week to help improve global Longevity, what would it be and why?
Professor Scott: Trying to get society to move away from its obsession with thinking that aging is about end of life and is measured by chronological age. A reliance on chronological age underpins our ageist practices and restricts us benefiting fully from the gains in healthy life expectancy that have already happened. The truth is we are aging better than the past but we each age very diversely. None of that is captured in our simple-minded reliance on chronological age and concepts such as old is being 65 or greater.

Interested in participating in this years Longevity Forum? Apply for an invitation here