New Life in Old Age

With populations worldwide aging fast, new challenges are arising not only for health-care systems, but also for economies, government policies, and, of course, families. Health-care companies – in cooperation with governments, insurance companies, and other stakeholders – must play a central role in addressing them.

ZURICH – Many of us have seen our aging parents or grandparents lose their independence. In 2012, more than 2.4 million Americans over the age of 65 were treated in emergency rooms for injuries from falls alone. With populations worldwide aging fast, the scale of such challenges is growing exponentially, affecting not only health-care systems, but also economies, government policies, and, of course, families.

The United Nations estimates that, by the middle of this century, the number of people older than 60 will double, with people over the age of 65 outnumbering – for the first time in history – children under the age of five. The explanation for this demographic trend is straightforward: global fertility rates have plummeted, from five children per woman, on average, in 1950-1955, to 2.5 children per woman in 2010-2015.

Of course, aging citizens should not be viewed simply as an economic burden. In fact, they can play a positive role as active consumers – a potential that many industries have already recognized and begun to tap. According to Bank of America Merrill Lynch, people over 50 are responsible for almost 60% of consumer spending in the United States.

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