It’s a wonderful time of year – unless you’re a Washington Redskins fan, a Healthcare.gov advocate, or the press secretary at the NSA. As we look ahead to 2014, it’s worth noting and celebrating that as we age, science and medicine and society itself are making life more livable, more exciting than ever before:
- You’re in good company. Whether you live in L.A., Tokyo, Berlin, or Sao Paolo, you and those around you are part of one of the largest worldwide demographic groups. Japan has an incredible 30 percent of its population over 60, a number that will climb to 40 percent in the next two decades. Europe is only inches behind, and the less-industrialized nations of the world are catching up quickly. Quite soon, what was once “old” will be middle-aged, with a slew of new possibilities and opportunities arising.
- You’re healthy. Thanks to better sanitation everywhere, as well as innovation in medicine, procedures, devices, and healthier diets and lifestyles, global life expectancy is shooting through the roof – with more people enjoying good health well into their later years than ever before. While poor health during the older years remains an obstacle to making population aging a driver of economic growth and prosperity, we’re certainly moving in the right direction. New breakthroughs in immunization, skin care, vision and more are rewriting the possibilities for aging populations and opening doors that have been closed to “seniors” for time immemorial.
- You are on the global agenda. The G8 met this December in London to discuss how to spearhead a global initiative to beat Alzheimer’s by 2025, the exploding health challenge of the 21st century because of its near-perfect correlation to aging. Today, one in three people is at risk of getting Alzheimer’s or some other form of dementia. The OECD has been working with Oxford University, and the WHO, the UN, APEC, the EU and other multi-national organizations are recognizing that national success is intimately interwoven with the success of aging populations. New initiatives, programs and agendas are being formed, and older people are at the center of it all.
- You are sexy. From New York’s catwalks to Hollywood’s back lots, older adults are stealing the show. Harper’s Bazaar’s legendary “Fabulous at Every Age” segment now features a page dedicated to women in their 60s and 70s, and more and more of Hollywood’s leading men technically qualify for Social Security. Red 2 has a cast of role models, including Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren, John Malkovich, and Anthony Hopkins; Robert Redford has been nominated for a Golden Globe; Martin Scorcese has directed one of the big box office hits of the season: The Wolf of Wall Street; and Meryl Streep in August: Osage County proves once again what great acting is all about.
- You’re just getting started. As the Rolling Stones showed on their 50th anniversary tour, time is definitely on your side. And the G8’s leadership reveals just how invested global authorities are in beating the problems of aging before they beat us. Companies of all industries are catching on, too, realizing that “age friendliness” isn’t just the right thing to do – it’s essential for business success in the coming years.
The progress we’re making in capturing the opportunity of aging will create a better tomorrow for people of all ages. A healthier, more active and productive aging population will drive fiscal sustainability and economic growth for decades to come. A new model of aging may be the greatest gift we could give ourselves and our families as this year closes and a new one begins.
Michael W. Hodin, Ph.D., is executive director of the Global Coalition on Aging, managing partner at High Lantern Group, and a fellow at Oxford University's Harris Manchester College. He is a featured blogger for The Fiscal Times and The Huffington Post.
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