Improving longevity literacy – and why digital health is the answer

LongeVC’s Sergey Jakimov on why it’s time to demystify longevity industry and build a bridge from clinicians to the masses.

It goes without saying that aging is a complex, multifactorial process that affects all living organisms. However, despite significant advances in medicine and science, age-related diseases continue to pose significant challenges to public health worldwide, both in terms of suffering and healthcare burden. To combat this, education about the mechanisms of aging and strategies to promote healthy aging is critical.

Longevity literacy, the ability to understand and apply knowledge about aging and longevity, is essential for promoting healthy behaviors and reducing the burden of age-related diseases. Sergey Jakimov, the CEO of Swiss investment group LongeVC joins us to discuss how digital health technology presents an exciting opportunity to improve longevity literacy by encouraging outcome ownership and by providing accessible and engaging educational resources to the wider public, and to explore the potential benefits of these interventions for promoting healthy aging and reducing the incidence of age-related diseases.

Digital health is the answer to longevity literacy
by Sergey Jakimov

It’s time for us to bring longevity science to the masses. While the sector has largely moved past misconceptions around magic potions and cure-all superfoods, the average person knows very little about longevity, or even biological aging in general. Throw terms like telomeres, epigenetic reprogramming and cellular rejuvenation into a presentation, and eyes will glaze over before you move past your outline slide. We need better education and awareness to reach more people.

The best way to educate is through creating first-hand experiences. Most people welcome more individual health insights – from website ads to e-cards, we appreciate how the internet creates personalisation and relationship building. While we cannot force people to read longevity books or articles, we can offer online or app-based tools that make research hands-on and exciting. Delivering digital, at-home actionable insights will support more equitable longevity care and industry progress.

Longevity and at-home healthcare

For this article, let’s define longevity as a continuum of care based on gradual adjustment of a patient’s lifestyle, early identification and prevention of certain risks, and a constantly adapting clinical regimen. While some imagine longevity as only entailing complicated drug-based (and sometimes rejuvenation-focused) medical interventions, often that is very far from the truth. One way of communicating this distinction and digitising the longevity care experience is telemedicine.

Telemedicine has revolutionized healthcare, and it will also transform longevity care. Telehealth makes it easy for individuals to communicate with their healthcare providers from any location, creating more accessible appointments for people with disabilities, illnesses or work commitments. 66% of US adults surveyed prefer virtual visits in their healthcare plan [1], and online appointments reduce wait times and increase the availability of specialists. They also manage chronic conditions more quickly and effectively, as people can follow up with their doctors regularly and avoid frequent in-person appointments.

By 2026, the telehealth market is expected to reach $185.6 billion [2], and virtual longevity visits should be part of that growth. Until longevity clinics become more prevalent, telehealth can connect longevity physicians with patients, regardless of location. Working people, parents or housebound individuals can meet with their physician when it fits their needs. Furthermore, aging is by definition a chronic condition, and convenient, straightforward check-ins will make regular appointments easier with flexible and remote options.

Apart from telehealth, medical devices also bring healthcare into the home. Devices like insulin pumps and peak flow meters provide ways to track and treat chronic conditions like diabetes and asthma, while wearables like smartwatches or rings provide health data on sleep and biometrics. Take-up of wearables is high because they generate interesting and actionable data. letting users know when to change their habits or pursue medical attention, and they also clearly show outcomes of such changes.

The future of longevity care must be similarly measurable. Aging clocks provide similar biometric data and a means for comparison, but they need refinement for use in the general population. Imagine if an individual could see their biological age drop by 2-3 years on their smartwatch after six months of tracked daily movement – that would certainly educate them on the effects of a proven longevity intervention better than any pamphlet or book. Few things leave an impact as significantly as personal improvement does.

Digital tools will support healthcare equality

While telehealth and medical devices help with at-home healthcare options, true inclusion will require more concentrated efforts. Many longevity researchers speak to audiences with the assumption that they have basic health services like regular blood testing and annual wellness exams. However, this is not the case – if the industry wants to make longevity accessible for all, it must first recognise and address the vast differences in healthcare.

For the purpose of this piece, let’s focus on healthcare within the US and Europe. Racism, discrimination and environment significantly impact health outcomes like mortality, disease susceptibility and health literacy [3]. 97% of people in the United States have a cell phone [4], but only 76% see a doctor annually [5]; it’s clear digitalisation penetrates further than healthcare access.

While improving these figures is a noble cause, the longevity sector should lead the way in meeting people where they are. Everyone is aware of aging – and almost everyone has a cell phone. An untapped opportunity exists for longevity stakeholders, including investors, nonprofits, and physicians, to reach audiences with new digital approaches. Wearables (as I mentioned earlier), podcasts, videos and other easily digestible content are effective ways to address an increasingly digitally native audience.

The benefits of awareness

Much of longevity science remains in laboratories. We’re on the cusp of the first treatments and programmes reaching human trials and use, but this won’t matter if people are uncertain of longevity as a field. Misinformation is one of the greatest threats to changing something as personal as our health.

The first step to mitigating this threat is delivering more accessible longevity language. As I mentioned before, terms like rejuvenation and epigenetics are too complex for the average person, but we can explain these concepts, and many others from the longevity world, in much more human language. David Sinclair’s book Lifespan is a fantastic example; he breaks down intricate biological processes into understandable and engaging content. Andrea Maier takes a similar approach in her work on longevity medicine in Singapore and beyond, providing a clear overview of the state of play and what it means for physicians and their patients. Such efforts demystify the industry and build a bridge from clinicians to the masses.

We can educate and raise awareness by tapping into platforms and tools people already use as well. It’s time to think outside the box! There is tremendous potential for new applications like an aging clock app that syncs with our phone’s health data, a detailed podcast exploring aging, or an interactive website to track current clinical trial progress. I’m excited that Longevity.Technology’s newsletter has easily digestible stories [see sign up in footer!], and it’s my goal to share more about the field with my social media connections. We’re living in the digital age and we should leverage its power fully to advance longevity education.

READ MORE: How the longevity industry can deliver lives that are healthier, both physically and mentally – Sergey Jakimov on why mental health is an integral part of longevity care.