They’ve been killers for years: heart attack, cancer, stroke and neurological disorders. But they are becoming increasingly common as the world’s population ages and becomes more sedentary. For governments and organizations across the health care system, the escalating costs of these chronic diseases threaten their existence as well.
It’s estimated that before 2020, the global population aged 65 and over will outnumber children under the age of five, something that has never happened before. Meanwhile, over the next 30 years, the number of people over 65 will triple to 1.5 billion. The costs associated with treating this rapidly aging population are staggering. The World Economic Forum projects that treat chronic, non-communicable disorders could cost an estimated US$47 trillion from 2010 to 2030.
By some estimates, as a society, we spend approximately 50 times more on managing diseases reactively than we do on preventing them. For years, we have exposed our bodies to a host of insults and stress to a point where our cells can no longer maintain optimal function. It is at this point that age-related diseases manifest.
EY believes the goal should be to delay the functional decline and extend our health spans using transformative technologies. In our article, How will new technologies make age-related diseases a thing of the past?, we delve into the integral role new technologies will play in the shift from disease management to disease prevention.
In the near term, this may mean leveraging sensors and IoT technologies in smart phones and wearables to monitor and manage known diseases. Longer term, we will need to deploy genetic and regenerative medicine and improve analytic and human behavior to treat people before they get sick.
These are good goals. However, we also believe that the real shift to wellness will come when we have made such strides in pre-emptive efforts, when they are so entrenched in our day-to-day lives that we no longer think of them as preventative. Wellness will simply become part of our everyday routine.
So, how do we do that? Although there is no one magic bullet, we believe a convergence of technological advancements and trends are already underway that could help bring the concept of "healthy aging" to a reality.