4. Forever young

- People are living longer. The diagram below shows the increase in life expectancy since 1905 to 2015 and beyond for males and females in Australia. 

lifeexpectancy

-  there is an ageing population, especially in the developed economies. For example, Japan, in the 1950s around 4.5% of Japanese population was over 70, by 2010 it was 23% and by 2050 it is estimated to increase to 40%. This is the result of
i) declining birth rates/fertility rates (this is linked with the fall in child mortality; thus the reduced need for large families as a greater percentage of children survive to adulthood)

ii) increasing life expectancy (this is a result of technological advances in agriculture, nutrition, medicine, public health, infrastructure, etc)
- the ageing population has an impact on

i) productivity (reduction in working population as a large number of people move into retirement, ie fewer people will be working to support more retired people)

ii) changed retirement patterns (including retirement savings gap, ie people need to work longer to afford a comfortable retirement; people are staying in the workforce longer so that they are able to pay for this  longer time in retirement before death. In Australia around 100 years ago, the average male life expectancy was around 60; in 2015 it was over 80. Generally older people prefer some employment during retirement; they are better suited to jobs that involved mental activities, like those in the knowledge industry, etc rather than physical, like construction industry, etc. Also older people are keen to become involved in community life-styles activities and remain physically/mentally active) NB Older people hold a wealth of knowledge, wisdom, experience and skills

Extended lifespan with people are living longer, eg Australians born since 2001 likely to live more than 3 decades longer than a century ago. As a result, brands, organisations, etc are starting to focus on the "older persons" market, eg

- development of personalised medicine including DNA beauty plans

- tent pole learning (studying for degrees in their 30s to 70s)

- life-lasting "whealth" (wealth and health) programs

Also, people are becoming more accepting of science and technology in the home, eg sensors, Internet, digitalisation, smart phones, algorithms, etc

"...A recent survey found 54% of people in Britain were willing to provide blood, skin and hair samples for testing to develop a personalised product when a decade ago they would refuse to provide their fingerprints..."

Patrick Durkin 2016d

"...it's no longer just those very functional things that help you lose weight ... help you monitor a medical condition; it's increasingly this idea of let's look at how you are feeling..."

Chris Sanderson as quoted by Patrick Durkin 2016d

Products are being developed like pplkpr (people keeper, right) to personalise products and services to deliver not only the physical, but the emotional and mental state of individuals, eg measuring your heart rate, who stresses you, who makes you happy or arouses you and then makes recommendations to optimise your social life.

This is called "fluid technology" that creates symbiotic ecosystem with the individual and the technology. Some examples,

- Amazon Echo is like a personal assistant at home where verbal commands to add products to a shopping list is fulfilled in the warehouse and can be delivered promptly

- Pause App is designed to help us slowdown in the 24/7 society

Ageing workforce/population can limit long-term economic growth as a smaller percentage of people are of working age and this lowers the capacity to produce goods and services. One possible way to handle this is by increasing labour productivity (via use of technology) so that more can be produced to maintain GDP per capita. Technology requires differently qualified workers as more routine tasks are automated. Cognitive tasks (these require knowledge) can be automated. For example, translators: some of the tasks they perform include identifying the phrase, its grammatical structure, and then translating it. As this is a cognitively routine task, online translators can perform this. These digital translators are improving their accuracy as they are learning patterns of behaviour.

iii) rising health-care expenditure (as people are living longer),

iv) chronic, mostly preventable, life-style based illness (linked with unhealthy diets and physical inactivity; it is the basis for obesity. Life style-related illnesses include Type II diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, degenerative illnesses, certain types of cancer, etc associated with obesity and sedentary lifestyles. People, especially in developed countries, continue to eat excessive amounts of fast foods and confectionery products, eg over the past 50 years, the US daily calorie consumption per person has increased by 30%; the consequential rise in chronic illness is costing the public health sector large amounts of  money that could be better utilised elsewhere. It is suggested that the impact of obesity could reduce our life expectancy. Obesity is a problem worldwide and in all age groups including children: it is estimated that 40 m. children are obese and that 70% of the north American population is obese)
NB Also, general health-care costs are rising because people are living longer with more chronic health issues; it is estimated that adults in the USA need least 2.5 hours of physical activity per week to stay healthy, but fewer than 50% of US adults get enough exercise
- mental health (it is the foundation of all other types of health and quality of life; thought to be of greater importance and impact than obesity, eg almost 50% of all Australians have experienced a serious mental health disorder at some point in their life. As we age, there is an increasing the risk of deteriorating mental health including

i) dementia which involves a progressive deterioration of cognitive functions that limits the ability to think, reason, make decisions and perform everyday tasks. Some of the symptoms include memory loss, confusion, personality change, apathy, withdrawal from social situations, etc. Alzheimer's disease (neurodegenerative disorder) is the physiological cause of dementia

ii) depression (patients feel deeply unhappy for a prolonged period of time, often with no clear or rational cause; it is estimated that 5% the world's population suffers from depression; the percentage increases significantly as we get older)
in summary

"...we have an ageing population, with more age-related illness, plus a population increasingly adopting unhealthy lifestyles..."

Stefan Hajkowicz, 2015

- changing behavioural pattern (neuroscience (for more details, see elsewhere) has shown that the brain prefers established habits/patterns, etc rather than creating new ones as the latter is energy expensive. This helps explain why changing people's behaviours is hard work, eg dieting, exercise, etc. Maybe an increased focus on preventative medicine is part of the answer)

 

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