Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Impact of an Aging Population

By Angelo Bouselli, Senior Manager of Communications, FasterCures

A couple hundred participants of the Milken Institute Global Conference packed into the Wilshire Ballroom for the session “The Impact of the Aging Population.” Paul Irving, senior managing director of the Milken Institute, moderated the panel and started with some facts for context: the 65 and older group is the fastest growing in the United States and faces numerous health challenges, including obesity, Alzheimer’s Disease, diabetes, and loneliness. Panelists agreed that this growing population offered economic and innovation opportunities, and that access and accountability were essential elements for this generation to thrive.

According to Mark Hodin of the Global Coalition on Aging, there are three components to understanding aging – longevity, low fertility, and the Baby Boomer bulge. “This subject is interesting because life longevity is new. This new middle age presents us with an opportunity to drive wealth creation and productivity around healthcare, research, learning, and creating new institutions that are right for the 20th Century.”

Marc Freedman of Civic Ventures said that social security was brilliant when it was introduced decades ago, and it worked for half a century. However, the traditional model of working for a long period of time and then retiring until the end of life doesn’t fit what many Baby Boomers today want. “Now what we need as a society and as individuals is the freedom to work. We really have to go back to the drawing board. We need a whole new set of social institutions.”

Paul Kusserow of Humana agreed that the infrastructure for the aging population needs to change. He warned about the current and growing problem of doctor shortages and said “The key is going to be access.” He saw the aging population as a “tremendous opportunity” for the emergence of electronic medical records and for innovation in care coordination. Sherry Lansing of The Sherry Lansing Foundation also saw aging as an opportunity for seniors to start something new and emphasized that seniors have an opportunity to “rewire, not retire.”

Redefining this stage of life and getting it right will change the whole picture of life, and all generations have a stake in getting this right. Irving closed the session by emphasizing that “we have a personal responsibility to get engaged in this issue.”

Watch a video of the session.

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