Role of Data for Living Healthy for Longer Time and Managing the Aging Demographic Role of Data for Living Healthy for Longer Time and Managing the Aging Demographic
The Global Future Council (GFC) on Human Enhancement and Longevity considers global data sharing as 1 of 4 critical workstreams. One model... Role of Data for Living Healthy for Longer Time and Managing the Aging Demographic

The Global Future Council (GFC) on Human Enhancement and Longevity considers global data sharing as 1 of 4 critical workstreams. One model of best practice exists already: the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI) project, which has strict rules designed to encourage the sharing of collected data among its members including both public and private research institutions. To address GDPR challenges, new approaches to consent management or dynamic consent are being trialed in the UK and EU and by global organizations including Global Alliance for Genomics and Health (GA4GH) to address data for living healthy.

This article is an excerpt from the book Live Longer with AI by Tina Woods – a book that is considered a wake-up call that shows us how to live our best and longest lives through the power of AI. It dives deep into the ways in which artificial intelligence is helping us extend our health span and live better. 

Recently, the US National Academy for Medicine (NAM) announced the Global Roadmap for Healthy Longevity Grand Challenge, backed with $35 million in funding. It is an international, independent, and multidisciplinary initiative that will be informed by workstreams in three domains: 1) social, behavioral, and environmental enablers; 2) health care systems and public health and 3) science and technology. It is convening thought leaders from biological and behavioral sciences, medicine, healthcare, public health, engineering, technology, economics, and policy to identify the necessary priorities and directions for improving health, productivity, and quality of life for older adults worldwide. Its recommendations are due out in late 2020 and will be focused on making later life happy, healthy, and meaningful. 

I was invited to Singapore by NAM in February 2020 to speak about the work I have been doing with the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Longevity (APPGL); this was 10 days before the launch of the Health of the Nation on 12 February. I had a fascinating 3 days and took away several insights about what living and growing older in Singapore might be like. My first conversation in Singapore was with the taxi driver I found through the Grab app (Singapore’s version of Uber)—he used to be an airline attendant but decided to change jobs when he wanted to be close to home to care for his aging father. The sense of family and community is very high in Singapore, he explained. But so is government control. He was annoyed that he could not use his pension the way he would like and was envious of our pension freedoms in the UK. Bearing in mind I arrived just as the world was waking up to the coronavirus threat, I was greeted at the hotel with a welcome bag containing hand sanitizer, facemask, and government guidelines. The hotel reception assistant had been instructed by the government to take temperature readings of all guests as they arrived. Throughout the next 3 days, hand sanitizers were stationed at every single-entry point in buildings and major meeting places. 

This shows how closely involved the government gets to protect its citizens’ health. No wonder Singapore is doing so well in the worldwide longevity rankings partly thanks to data for living healthy.

In Singapore, the average life expectancy is 85—among the highest in the world—and about 24% of the labor force is 55 or older, up from 14% in 2008. But, being a progressive country, it isn’t focusing on building nursing homes. Instead, the island city-nation is investing $3 billion to support lifelong learning and employability, health and wellness, financial literacy, and multi-generational housing, among other initiatives. 

Singapore embraced a “multistage stage life” including a 70-item initiative to make the country a nation for all ages. Singapore recently unveiled a national development plan in longevity, including a preventive and active aging program that starts for citizens at the early age of 40. Companies like Prudential Singapore are also leading the way here, allowing their employees over the retirement age of 62 to continue to work.  

To sustain economic growth, Singapore over the next decade is raising its retirement age from 62 to 65 and requiring employers to re-employ men and women who want to work until at least 70. The government there also gives businesses a 3% credit to offset wages of employees over 50 and makes grants to companies so they can modify jobs for older workers.  

In addition, wellness programs in all communities include regular screenings for chronic diseases, and activities such as Tai Chi and dance lessons. National Silver Academy, a network of colleges and community-based organizations, offers post-secondary education to older people, who can take courses in technology, business, literature, and other subjects, and who often share classrooms with youth. A Skills Future program teaches Singaporeans of all ages necessary skills for future jobs, and a Money Sense program teaches young and old alike how to manage money and invest. 

Managing the Aging Demographic 

In my interview with Mike Hodin, CEO of the Global Coalition on Aging (GCOA), he agreed there are lessons to learn from how Singapore and Japan have tackled their aging demographic in a positive manner. He takes the view that creating an environment with the right tax incentives to enable innovation is key, as is an education system that promotes lifelong learning, which, through enabling active aging, will itself enable healthier aging. 

Engagement across the life-course, whether in our 20s, 80s, or 90s is an essential part of 21st-century healthy aging. With reference to Singapore, he says: “it has been a great model that connects healthy aging to economic growth. Singapore’s low tax rates are a model for innovation that is an often-unrecognized engine for healthy aging, especially valued as we launch the WHO/UN Decade of Healthy Aging and the OECD advances its Aging Societies’ Strategy. Moreover, Singapore’s leadership in the Age-Friendly Cities Program is exemplary and a pathway through which they’re crafting public policies around reframing and reimagining the very notion of work and retirement, skill development, and training across the life course.”  

Mike and GCOA are focused on supporting companies to grow the longevity marketplace or the Global Silver Economy and data for living healthy, highlighted at the first-ever global forum July 2019 in Helsinki in partnership with the Finnish government as they assumed their EU Presidency where aging was the theme. GCOA is also working with companies and governments to tackle the underlying but profound cultural challenge of agism—a critical barrier to progress worldwide. He said, “even within healthcare itself, the culture, the subliminal culture of agism, is probably one of the biggest barriers to continued progress. For example, an 84-year-old may have age-related macular degeneration and not the often-presumed normal condition of aging that assumes deterioration of vision—agism! Or early signs of heart failure—growing tired, weak, or feeling poorly—may not, as the ageist view holds, be a normal part of aging but early signs of heart failure. Nor should we assume that osteoporosis is an acceptable condition of aging, which cannot be treated effectively to avoid the first fractures or certainly the second fractures. Across the healthcare system, not to speak of overall society, we too often still associate health deterioration as normal parts of aging.” 

Summary of Data for Living Healthy 

A positive narrative of aging, talking about it as an opportunity rather than a burden, is essential to ignite a marketplace for healthy aging. The latest innovative developments are helping us to live longer, healthier, and better. They compel us to stop thinking that health is about treating disease and start regarding it as our greatest personal and societal asset to protect. Discover how the latest cutting-edge developments in health and AI are helping us live longer, healthier, and better lives with Live Longer with AI by Tina Woods. 

About the author 

Tina Woods is a social entrepreneur and pioneer in health innovation – connecting science, government, business, and academia to align thinking and act – solving real-world problems and capitalizing on new opportunities amidst uncertainty and change. She is the Founder and CEO of Collider Health and Collider Science and Co-Founder and CEO of Longevity International that runs the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Longevity. 

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