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The spread of longevity valleys will hopefully give rise to progressive longevity nations. Image Credit: Gulf News Archives

By 2030, consumer spending within the middle- and upper-middle class of those aged 65 and above is expected to reach $15 trillion, up from $8.7 trillion in 2020. Seniors are the wealthiest age cohort in the world, together with professionals aged 45 to 64 years old.

The phenomenon of the wealthier elderly does not exist because senior citizens are inherently richer. In most cases, with some exceptions, wealthy nations tend to be older while poor countries are younger.

While longevity is an emerging industry globally and relatively new to the MENA region, it is expected to be the largest of all time. Longevity is focused on healthy ageing, comprising technologies and software that aim to improve the health and lifespan of people.

Longevity solutions aim to prevent, detect, monitor and treat chronic diseases. The sector sits at the intersection of several vital sub-sectors, including biotech, pharmaceuticals, fintech, insurtech, and more. In 2006, the World Health Organisation developed the concept of ‘age-friendly cities’, which use technologies and policies to support their populations in retirement, increase life expectancy and promote healthy ageing.

For the twilight years

These cities have been perceived as key destinations by those who want to live comfortably during their twilight years. The WHO Global Network for Age-friendly Cities and Communities now encompasses 1,114 urban centers in 44 countries, serving over 262 million individuals worldwide.

While age-friendly cities can be viewed as good places to retire, ‘longevity valleys’ on the other hand will emerge as ideal locations where senior citizens can remain professionally, mentally, socially and economically active for as long as feasible. This is something we call ‘practical human longevity’.

The spread of Longevity Valleys will hopefully give rise to progressive ‘longevity nations’. According to the Longevity Industry Journal, longevity valleys are a natural evolution from age-friendly cities. Instead of only focusing on healthy ageing, the next step is to create conditions for practical longevity, focusing on extending the wealth span of citizens.

Think outside of age-friendly cities

Currently, age-friendly cities are places where older people can age healthier, but longevity valleys will be places for younger people who want to live longer, or older people who want to stay active physically and financially.

Healthy longevity also requires political-driven changes to make life easier and more comfortable for people of all ages. As the elderly population increases, governments must adapt and create new infrastructure to accommodate the needs of this expanding demographic group.

We have witnessed many governments embracing longevity policies, including the UAE government. The fact that longevity is entering the mainstream political arena is contributing to the rise of longevity nations. I believe longevity governance initiatives will reshape the political and socio-economic landscape of nations.

Government can do their part

There is a pressing need for governmental attitudes to shift. This shift should be from an ageing-reactive position, which implies neutralising the economic burden of the growing proportion of the population aged 60 and above, to a longevity-proactive position. In other words, from treatment to preventive care. Healthy longevity not only increases life expectancy, but also extends the elderly’s participation in the workforce. Healthy ageing is affected by many factors such as economic growth, government healthcare policies, the quality of healthcare providers, and the extent to which people have access to all of that.

Let’s not forget the other social and environmental factors that affect longevity, such as the quality of air and levels of pollution.

Economic conditions that affect longevity include income, work and social protection. Mortality rates by cause include analysing and mitigating preventable causes of death. Lifestyle factors comprise healthy eating habits, physical activity, as well as the use of medication to prevent and treat diseases.

The physical environment where you live is also very important, and it includes transportation, housing and the natural environment as a whole. Demographics include genetic susceptibility and pre-existing tendencies for longer life.

Healthcare funding is the quality and the affordability of long-term care that need to be incorporated into longevity policies.

A city that is truly longevity-friendly would bring together the multiple facets of the longevity industry, including wealthtech, agetech, insurtech and many more. Ultimately, the goal is to maintain an optimal state of wealth and health in the later years of life, empowering senior citizens and the middle-aged physically, mentally and financially.