How to seize the upside of healthy aging

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.

3 minute read 31 Dec 2016
Related topics Life Sciences Health Aging

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Aging populations is one of the top five drivers of global change, inspiring innovation as a result of profound demographic change.

In January 2017, the World Economic Forum listed aging populations as one of the top five drivers of global change. As the costs of treating diseases of aging threaten to drown health systems and corporate and government agendas globally, it is time to recognize aging for the disruptive force that it is: a megatrend on par with technological dislocations such as artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things.

In such an environment, governments, corporations and individuals must work together before aging costs displace other priorities. This global “we” must recognize that managing diseases of aging as they arise is no longer affordable or a strategy for corporate and individual resilience.

To seize the upside of an aging world, public and private organizations must come together to build a wellness infrastructure that not only defines the concept, but also aligns incentives for different stakeholders. It requires reframing health as a long-term asset worthy of investment and individual empowerment via tools and technologies, data, and behavioral economics. 

As part of this effort, governments will need to explicitly support incentives that promote wellness and greater health participation in younger generations, especially baby boomers, millennials and Generation X.

Separately, regulators will have to work at the speed of business, developing policies that adapt with changing technologies to encourage innovations. Finally, industry players must come together to combine products and services in novel, scalable platform offerings that meet the needs of individuals in real life.

The four pillars of wellness infrastructure

1. Metrics for healthy aging

Only by better defining what is meant by health will it be possible to build consensus about what constitutes improvement. New solutions must be able to deliver a mutually agreed upon improved outcome if governments and payers will support its use in the marketplace.

2. Data in new combinations

New mobile technologies that monitor key biological metrics may spark radical, positive changes in consumer behavior. Going forward, it will be critical to combine genetic and proteomic data with information collected from wearables, environmental sensors and social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook to better define both the risk of a given disease and its onset.

3. Aligned incentives

Seizing the upside of healthy aging means aligning incentives for a broad “win” even though public and private entities are motivated by different objectives and timelines. One of the key ingredients to rapid progress may be alliance structures that allow different stakeholders to enter — and leave — partnerships at pre-arranged and mutually beneficial time points.

4. A shared purpose

If healthy aging solutions are only accessible to the wealthiest individuals in the developed world, they are neither “healthy” nor truly “solutions.” Part of the shared purpose must be a recognition that healthy aging is a basic right, as opposed to a luxury good.

The silver lining to this demographic disruption

Tremendous innovation is happening as a result of this profound demographic change. Over the next 3 to 5 years, there is an opportunity to integrate what have traditionally been bespoke, siloed solutions into broader platform-based offerings that combine multiple technologies and skill sets.

Aging may be inevitable. How we age is not.


Governments, corporations and citizens must work together to make aging a more healthy and affordable basic right.

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 Health Aging