5 minute read 25 Mar 2017
Senior couples with ski poles crossing stream.

Why aging is a megatrend as big as digital disruption

By

Pamela Spence

EY Global Health Sciences and Wellness Industry Leader and Life Sciences Industry Leader

Ambassador for outcomes-based performance and healthy aging. Advocate for women.

5 minute read 25 Mar 2017
Related topics Life sciences Aging Disruption

We explore the upsides of aging and the potential opportunities that could arise from engagement on the aging topic.

Disruption
[dis-ruhp-shun]
noun
1. Forcible separation or division into parts
2. A radical change in an industry, especially involving the introduction of a new product or service that creates a new market

The word “disruption” is in such heavy rotation in the business and technology press that many now believe it to be an empty buzzword.

And yet, there is no denying that technological developments such as artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics are driving massive changes in any number of areas, from the global workforce to supply chain management to drug discovery. Similarly, the Internet of Things (IoT) continues to transform the customer experience in the retail and financial sectors and will — in the not-too-distant future — also reshape care delivery.

We’ve been thinking hard about yet another disruptive force, one that hasn’t generated quite the same level of press: aging. It’s time to recognize that aging is a megatrend as big as digital disruption.

The United Nations estimates the global population of individuals 60 and older will increase from 900 million in 2015 to around 2.1 billion in 2050. As a result of this demographic change, the global ratio of workers (individuals between 20 and 64) to retirees (individuals 65 and older), what economists term the “potential support ratio” (PSR), will also fall dramatically. Practically speaking, that means there will be fewer current workers paying taxes to fund entitlement programs such as pensions or government-sponsored health care. Currently, no country has a PSR under 2. (The PSR of Japan, at 2.1, is the world’s lowest.) By 2050, however, 35 nations are forecast to have a PSR below 2.

This demographic disruption creates — and will continue to create — tremendous financial and political pressure. The global costs associated with managing a single disease of aging, Alzheimer’s, are forecast to exceed US$1 trillion in 2018 — and that’s without a drug to treat the condition. Beyond managing chronic diseases such Alzheimer’s, how will governments fund entitlement programs while simultaneously investing in the infrastructure necessary for tomorrow? Simply put, how will we — governments, corporations and individuals — disrupt aging, before it disrupts growth?

It’s easy to dwell on the risks associated with an aging world. But that is a myopic and ultimately dystopian viewpoint. We prefer to focus on finding the silver lining.

In this article , the first in a series exploring the upsides of aging, EY outlines the potential opportunities that could arise if there is engagement on the aging topic. It is still possible to change the conversation and seize the upside of the disruption that will be caused by the massive demographic shift currently underway.

Seizing this upside won’t be simple — or necessarily quick. It will require governments, corporations and individuals to work together to reframe aging so that the focus shifts from managing diseases as they arise to investing in enabling solutions and technologies that promote healthy longevity. Moreover, there won’t be a single solution. Different groups, including payers, providers, governments, life sciences companies and technology innovators will have to join forces to develop innovations for this “wicked” problem.

But it can be done.

Over the next three to five years, there is an opportunity to integrate what have traditionally been bespoke, siloed solutions into broader platform-based offerings that can actually transform the lives of current seniors and their caregivers, as well as baby boomers, Gen Xers and millennials.

Aging (for now) may be inevitable. But how we age is not.

Join the conversation on Twitter by following #EngagedAging

Summary

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.

About this article

By

Pamela Spence

EY Global Health Sciences and Wellness Industry Leader and Life Sciences Industry Leader

Ambassador for outcomes-based performance and healthy aging. Advocate for women.

Related topics Life sciences Aging Disruption