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Aging

How - and on what money - could we live to the age of 150 years?

Johannes Koettl's picture
Retired man with his surfboard
Nature has given every species an intrinsic life span. Life span is a bit like an upper bound to life expectancy: if you got every member of a species healthier and healthier, life expectancy of that species would constantly increase, but eventually be bound by life span.

Every species has a different life span: for flies, it’s just a couple of days, for bowhead whales it’s 200 years. For humans, biologists have found that up until the 1960s, life span was around 89 years. This means that if we kept improving our health systems, the world population’s life expectancy would converge to our species’ life span of 89.

So how did we break the limits of life expectancy?

Aging in Thailand – How to live long and prosper

Ulrich Zachau's picture

Asian societies are aging, and Thailand is aging rapidly. Already over 10 percent of the Thai population, or more than 7 million people, are 65 years old or older. By 2040, a projected 17 million Thais above 65 years of age will account for more than a quarter of the population. Together with China, Thailand already has the highest share of elderly people of any developing country in East Asia and Pacific, and it is expected to have the highest elderly share by 2040. A recent World Bank report, Live Long and Prosper: Aging in East Asia and Pacific (pdf), discusses aging in Asia and how countries can address the resulting challenges, and take advantage of emerging opportunities.

In many ways, aging is a consequence of longer life expectancy due to development success in Thailand:  people live longer, and fertility has come down rapidly from the unsustainably high levels of earlier decades. However, every success brings new challenges and aging is no exception. For example, the size of the working age population in Thailand is expected to shrink over 10 percent by 2040. Thailand has exhausted its “demographic dividend”, and future growth and improvement in living standards will largely come from increases in productivity. In addition, households headed by elderly Thais are twice as likely to be poor as those in their 30s and 40s, and in most cases are not covered by formal sector pension schemes.

How can rapidly aging East Asia sustain its economic dynamism?

Axel van Trotsenburg's picture
Panos Agency


In the last three decades, East Asia has reaped the demographic dividend. An abundant and growing labor force powered almost one-third of the region’s per capita income growth from the 1960s to the 1990s, making it the world’s growth engine.
 
Now, East Asia is facing the challenges posed by another demographic trend: rapid aging. A new World Bank report finds that East Asia and Pacific is aging faster – and on a larger scale – than any other region in history.
 
More than 211 million people ages 65 and over live in East Asia and Pacific, accounting for 36 percent of the global population in that age group. By 2040, East Asia’s older population will more than double, to 479 million, and the working-age population will shrink by 10 percent to 15 percent in countries such as Korea, China, and Thailand.
 
Across the region, as the working-age population declines and the pace of aging accelerates, policy makers are concerned with the potential impact of aging on economic growth and rising demand for public spending on health, pension and long-term care systems.
 
As the region ages rapidly, how do governments, employers and households ensure that hard-working people live healthy and productive lives in old age? How do societies in East Asia and Pacific promote productive aging and become more inclusive?
 

The physiological limits of life: Will humans one day live to the age of 150 years?

Johannes Koettl's picture

Looking at the past development of life expectancy, we can see a clear trend of considerable gains across all world regions since 1950. The question arises: Will this past trend continue forever, allowing future generations to live at some point to the age of 150 years and even beyond? Or is there some limit to increases in life expectancy—an upper bound which human kind won’t be able to cross?

Yes, there is a physiological limit to human life, but there is no absolute maximum age, which no human can ever cross. In biology, the concept of life span determines the age a species can reach under optimal circumstances. For humans, this life span stands at about 97 years. So 97 should, in principle, be the limit to human life expectancy. But there is a twist that gives us hope for more.

Brain resilience can be key to healthy aging

Dorota Chapko's picture
A man holds his 11-month-old granddaughter. Photo: Allison Kwesell / World Bank


In our previous blog post, we wrote about how getting a good head start in brain development builds the foundation of our cognitive abilities. It puts us in a path towards socio-economic success and makes us more resilient to aging and mid-life adversities. In this post, we’ll discuss how early-life experiences influence the development of socio-emotional abilities and of a more resilient brain, and how this new evidence can help development professionals design cost-effective policies that take into account a person’s human development during his/her lifetime.
 
Optimal brain development can in turn make healthy aging possible. As Jack Shonkoff and colleagues have put it: “Many adult diseases are, in fact, developmental disorders that begin early in life.”

Promoting equity in education to prepare for a greying Europe

Christian Bodewig's picture
PISA measures the skills and knowledge of 15-year-old students in reading, mathematics and science.
Photo: Simone D. McCourtie / World Bank 

Investing in people starts by ensuring that graduates leave school with strong basic/foundational skills, such as in reading and mathematics. Such skills are critical for subsequent study, for quickly finding a first job, and for adapting to continuous technological change. But are countries in the EU ready to face that challenge?

Media (R)evolutions: Ambient intelligence

Roxanne Bauer's picture

New developments and curiosities from a changing global media landscape: People, Spaces, Deliberation brings trends and events to your attention that illustrate that tomorrow's media environment will look very different from today's, and will have little resemblance to yesterday's.

Tech gurus have been discussing the growing presence of the Internet of Things, the wiring together of all our devices, as well as predicting how it might create “ambient intelligence”.  Ambient intelligence refers to electronic environments that are sensitive and responsive to the presence of people.  Within these environments, systems could sense what the human inhabitant needs and deliver it without being requested to do.  Ambient intelligence is the amalgamation of neural networks, big data, IoT, wearables, and device user interfaces into services that can automate processes and make recommendations to improve the users’ quality of life. 
 
A house could adjust its temperature based on behavioral and physiological data that the owner’s car collected during the commute home. A smartwatch may be a key to an office door, automatically unlocking the room as the wearer approaches. An at-home security system might learn what constitutes ‘normal’ activity and then send an alert to the owner when their dog needs to be let outside. At a grander scaled, sensors can now closely monitor the environmental impact of our cities, collecting details about sewers, air quality, and trash. 
 
Smart World Infographic

Shades of grey in the global green movement

Leszek J. Sibilski's picture

Portrait of elderly man in Bhutan"Each new generation is reared by its predecessor; the latter must therefore improve in order to improve its successor. The movement is circular." - Emile Durkheim
 
How are Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations, Jim Yong Kim, President of the World Bank Group, Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, Bill Mckibben, Pope Francis, and Al Gore alike? The answer is very simple: they are part of a 60+ cohort, which includes baby boomers and their predecessors. And they are all very effective and passionate about how to tackle the biggest threat of our times: climate change.
 
I vividly remember that the first person who drew my attention as a child to the environment was my grandfather who was a small farmer in my native Poland. Around twenty-five years ago, during my first visit to Siberia, tribal seniors raised the issue of the melting of the “eternal ice” as well. Neither my grandfather nor the seniors were highly educated, but they were able to observe the rapid changes in their own environment. Despite this, we did not heed their concerns as they did not possess academic credentials. Now that over five thousand researchers have agreed that climate change is occurring, we are suddenly starting to pay attention.
 
Older adults constantly address the issues involved in global warming to Millennials, youth or even children, fully aware that their generation’s irresponsible behavior contributed immensely to the current state of the Earth. But why exclude the culprits? What happened to resocialization and second chances? Even James Madison was aware of generational responsibilities when he stated: “Each generation should be made to bear the burden of its own wars, instead of carrying them on, at the expense of other generations.”
 
The baby boomers and the silent generation are reaping the benefits of the “longevity dividend”. Why don’t we start working together towards the survival of our kind not only as preachers, but also in the trenches of the global climate change movement?  Members of the grey generations are often bold, skilled, experienced, financially independent, and in most cases, are very active and sensitive to social inequity. As the old saying goes: the funeral shroud has no pockets. It is in their best interest to be part of this movement.

Weekly Wire: The Global Forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture

These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

 
The Challenge Of Connecting The Unconnected
TechCrunch
Every time we return to or sign up for an Internet service (e.g. Facebook, Google, Gmail, YouTube, etc.), we rely on what UX experts call a “mental model” for navigating through the choices. A mental model is essentially a person’s intuition of how something works based on past knowledge, similar experiences and common sense. So even when something is new, mental models help to make sense of it, utilizing the human brain’s ability to transcode knowledge and recognize patterns. For instance, most of our grandparents can hit the ground running with changing the channel or increasing the volume when handed the remote control for the latest television available in the market today, squarely because of a well-developed mental model for TV remote control units. But our grandparents may not have the same level of success when using Internet services, smartphones or tablets. Under-developed mental models in these domains are their primary obstacles

Beyond Magic Bullets in Governance Reform
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
Domestic reformers and external donors have invested enormous energy and resources into improving governance in developing countries since the 1990s. Yet there is still remarkably little understanding of how governance progress actually occurs in these contexts. Reform strategies that work well in some places often prove disappointing elsewhere. A close examination of governance successes in the developing world indicates that effective advocacy must move beyond a search for single-focus “magic bullet” solutions toward an integrated approach that recognizes multiple interrelated drivers of governance change.
 

Aging: A problem in Africa as well?

Sudharshan Canagarajah's picture

Recently, while reviewing a document, I came across a statistic about age dependency* in the Republic of Mauritius. Mauritius already had an age dependency ratio of 10.9 in 2010 and this is projected to rise to 25 by 2030 and 37 by 2050, which is at par with many East Asian economies. Aging issues in Europe and parts of Asia have already become an economic and fiscal policy concern over the last few years and will remain so for the foreseeable future, could it also become a problem for Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) sooner than realized?

With 43 percent of the population below the age of 15 and only three percent above the age of 65, Sub-Saharan Africa is a predominantly young continent. The problems emanating from an ageing population, such as rising age dependency ratios and increasing health care costs, are far over the horizon as far as the continent is concerned. However, this may not remain so for long and definitely not for all the countries. Let me explain why.


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