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"The Future of Getting Old"
With Old Age, New Possibilities
WIRED Brand Lab and Pfizer's GET OLD program have teamed up to create The Future of Getting Old, a trend report identifying six areas associated with aging, and the science and technology that may be changing what 'getting old' looks like.
"People are living longer than ever before, thanks in large part to today's standard of disease prevention and improved treatment options," said Matt Stevenson of WIRED Brand Lab. "We partnered with Pfizer in an effort to highlight the cutting-edge practices that may be adding years to the human lifespan."
"The world's population is getting older. We need to talk about what aging is, and what it can be," says Dr. Pol Vandenbroucke, head of Medical Strategy at Pfizer. "While there are still many uncertainties on the aging horizon, many of us can take steps now to make sure old age won't just mean living long, but living well."
Built on extensive research and forward-looking insights from the leading minds in medicine, psychology, and technology, The Future of Getting Old report examines a range of topics including the biology of aging, elderly care, the longevity dividend, and how millennials may be setting themselves up to age better than their predecessors. With many new technologies on the horizon, from autonomous vehicles to AI home caregivers, people have a unique opportunity to think differently about the way they age, and focus on their quality of life while potentially adding decades to it.
Below is a summary of key findings from the WIRED Brand Lab x Pfizer report. You can also find the complete "Future of Getting Old" report at GetOld.com now.
I. The Biology of Aging
Contrary to popular notion, we don't "die of old age." Rather than a single condition, aging is the result of interconnected failures in our endlessly replicating cells. There are nine known bodily processes that deteriorate over time. These "Hallmarks of Aging" open the door to system failures such as heart disease and cancer, as well as a host of health challenges from mobility loss to failing
II. Aging Independently
While illness or a traumatic event like a fall may not be certain, physical aging happens to everyone. Loss of bone and muscle mass along with sensory impairment can make it a challenge to do everything from getting out of bed in the morning to playing with grandchildren. However, we are not helpless against old age. Research shows taking preventative measures may help us to remain mobile. Bone loss, osteopenia and osteoporosis can be slowed with proper diet and exercise or even counteracted to some degree with medicine.
III. A New Take on Elderly Care
Technological advances hold a lot of potential to keep us independent in old age. The availability of social networks and other digital means of person-to-person communication already keep individuals emotionally engaged. But new technology is on the horizon—from robot caregivers to smart houses—that could ensure independent living doesn't have to mean physical or emotional isolation.
IV. Think Again:
Dementia Dementia is an umbrella medical term for a syndrome, a set of symptoms that appear together, not a specific bodily malfunction. But current studies may promise progress. Recently, researchers discovered that certain types of inflammation tied to dementia have genetic causes, some of which can be spotted before birth. Understanding risk factors like these are important in developing methods of prevention.
V. Longevity Dividend
When the retirement age of 65 was established in 1935, the average life expectancy in the U.S. was only 61. The average life expectancy has increased by decades since, yet we still talk about retirement and life after in the same terms as we did over 80 years ago.
Rick Gorvett, a researcher in actuarial science (the statistical study of human behavior as a group) at the University of Illinois says our entire approach to the worklife cycle might change as people live longer. When planning for the future, it might be time to ask yourself: What will you do with your extra years of healthy life?
VI. Millennial Model for Aging
The millennial generation is very different from their baby boomer and Gen X elders. Stereotypes aside, they represent an important cultural inflection point: the first generation exposed to the internet throughout childhood. Their penchant for constant connectivity and immediate access to information is defining characteristics that may already be setting them up for success in old age.