The world’s population is facing a demographic shift
More than 900 million people around the globe were aged over 60 in 2015 and this number is expected to double to two billion people by 2050, according to the United Nations World Population Prospects report. And with this demographic shift, today’s aging population is also changing society’s concept of what it means to grow old.
With the average life expectancy continuously increasing, industrialized countries are facing two challenges presented by the demographic shift: how to manage the extra costs associated with longer term care; and how to handle the prospect of possibly spending more years in declining health. And since aging is a relatively modern phenomenon, we also need to further understand what aging means at both a global and local level.
The Bayer Commitment to Healthy Aging
Bayer is committed to delivering “Science For A Better Life” by addressing unmet needs through scientific progress and innovation.
We’re helping to optimize opportunities for good health by supporting medical education and knowledge sharing that addresses the increase in average life span in developed countries – leading to a high-quality life that’s as active and independent as possible. Meanwhile, younger generations can make well-informed decisions to help prevent chronic diseases, so they’re encouraged to remain healthy well into their senior years.
“Bayer’s scientists are concentrating on new therapeutic options for conditions such as heart failure, vision loss through macular degeneration, and prostate and lung cancer. The results of this research could make it possible for elderly people to live a longer, active life.”
Dr. Michael Devoy, Chief Medical Officer, Bayer AG
Bayer is helping to address the demographic shift by bringing governments, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and industry together to build new frameworks and develop new medications that can meet the needs of people, providing sound investments in a future where people have the freedom to be and do what they value while having access to the care and medicines they need. Bayer has already engaged successfully with a range of key stakeholders around the topic of healthy aging:
Healthy Aging is not only a local topic, but a global one.That’s why Bayer has initiated several activities with varying focus on different regions or countries that are especially affected by the demographic shift. Learn more about the global differences in aging societies and how Bayer is addressing them.
“We are always looking for new and highly specific therapeutic approaches to be able to provide even better help to patients in the future. No matter our number of years, we’re all aging from the minute we’re born. It’s a topic that affects all ages.”
Dieter Weinand, Member of the Board of Management of Bayer AG, President Pharmaceuticals
Globally, the population aged 60 or over is the fastest growing. Europe has currently the greatest percentage of its population in this sector, over 24 per cent. In June 2016, Member of European Parliament (MEP) Lambert van Nistelrooij hosted a Bayer initiated stakeholder dialogue on “Harnessing new ways to empower healthy aging in Europe” at the European Parliament in Brussels. Together with our stakeholders, Bayer is helping change public perception of healthy aging by acknowledging and tackling the challenges of a demographic shift and aging worldwide.
Ask the Experts
Our Healthy Aging Interview Series asks experts from Non-Governmental Organizations, Governments, industry and digital landscape on what Healthy Aging means to them.
Q: Can you tell me about the International Federation on Ageing (IFA)?
A: The IFA is a global non-governmental organization and is a global point of connection of experts and expertise that work to influence and shape age-related policy. It is one of only a few organizations in this field with general consultative status at the United Nations and its agencies.
Q: How has aging changed over the last 50 years?
A: Healthy aging is being redefined. It is no longer the presence or absence of diseases, but rather the process of developing and maintaining functional ability that enables well-being in older age. The new narrative that describes aging recognizes two interrelated factors: all of the physical and mental components of a person and the environment in its broadest sense.
At the heart of the new narrative is the process to enable older persons to do what they value through developing strategies and actions that support maximum functional ability. Three key areas are: prevention, access to health and social care services, and timely and appropriate treatment.
Q: How is the IFA helping to raise awareness on healthy aging?
A: IFA together with academia, industry, government and NGOs have a responsibility to not have the discussion about healthy aging and the burden of older people, but to take rather a proactive approach to maximize the social and economic contributions of all – regardless of age.
Being able to do what you value is the call to action for all. The IFA is committed to being a driver of change in helping to raise critical issues with industry, government and other public sectors on multidisciplinary approaches about growing older in a global world.
Q: How does working with industry help?
A: Industry brings to the conversation table a unique cadre of intelligence that together with views and evidence from other stakeholders is critical to the future development of effective policies. This may enable older people to do what they value in life. Maximizing functional ability is vital regardless of age and diagnoses.
Q: Anything else that you’d like to add?
A: Ageism is in the most insidious and invisible ‘ism’ of our time. Without clear concerted action it will undermine the rich fabric of our society and contributions of people of all ages. Older people are particularly vulnerable to societal and generational stereotyping which inhibits their opportunity to contribute in ways not yet realized. It’s time to take ‘age’ out of the conversation of being a valid and legitimate member of society and focus on creating an environment that enables function.
There is need to ‘reset’ our thinking and actions on the demographic shift and determine how to influence and shape future age-related policies.
To learn more on Healthy Aging and what you can do, please visit the International Federation on Ageing website.
Q: Can you tell us about Medlanes?
A: Medlanes is an on-demand healthcare app that enables clients to connect with a wide range of doctors and specialists that are ready to come, diagnose, treat or help you with almost any medical problem no matter where you are.
Q: Do you believe a health app like Medlanes empowers a younger generation to think about healthy aging?
A: Absolutely. Digital in general is helping to connect a younger generation to the idea of maintaining their health, whether this is through apps, smartphones or wearables. And through digital enablement, the younger generation is arguably the most empowered generation: a generation that has a unique opportunity to take more responsibility for their health.
Q: What is your view on how the young view aging and how aging has changed over the last 50 years?
A: I believe that young people, when they think about getting old, they think about what they perceive old to be: getting sick, being house bound and not living the life you once did. However, over the last 50 years, we’re seeing that it’s possible to stay healthy for a much longer period of time due to modern advances in medicine. So I don’t think younger generations dread aging as much as previous generations did because they’re seeing their parents live longer, fuller lives.
Q: What do you think the future of healthcare looks like?
A: I believe the future of healthcare is digitalization combined with novel, advanced treatment options. Through digital, people are becoming more empowered and are able to take more responsibility for their health. In the past, you had to go to the doctor and the doctor told you what was potentially ailing you. But now, through apps and connected devices, patients can take more responsibility for their own health – whether that’s through an app like Medlanes that connects you to doctors or a smart device telling you when to stand up, run or take your medicine.
Q: So you believe digital health can make healthcare more accessible?
A: Yes, digital health has the unique opportunity to make quality healthcare accessible and ultimately better – regardless of age, location or time – by connecting healthcare providers to those in need as soon as they need it.
Q: How has aging changed over the last 50 years?
A: In 50 years we’ve improved global life expectancy by roughly 20 years. But, our overall health – that is being healthy later in life – has not really improved. In the future, we envision a patient-centered approach that enables individuals to be more empowered and take more direct control of their health.
Q: How is Bayer helping tackle the demographic shift?
A: With the world population facing a demographic shift, one of the areas we’re seeing an increase in is the number of cancer patients. By exploring treatment approaches that can offer meaningful progress to doctors and patients battling the toughest cancers, Bayer has tripled its oncology pipeline over the past three years by prioritizing treatments that show promise for hard-to-treat cancers.
Q: What else is Bayer doing?
A: We have a responsibility to work on prevention as well as researching and developing new treatments – but this needs to be a joint effort. We believe that solving healthcare problems requires partnerships, collaborations and a broad approach in terms of education. This is why we’re helping to stimulate the debate around healthy aging with governments, NGOs and industry.
For example, we’re partnering with the International Federation on Ageing and the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness to ensure more patients get access to proper eye care, especially the most vulnerable and most in in need.
Q: How do you involve young people in the discussion on aging?
A: We’re taking a broad approach that involves everyone including today’s young people. We need to help young people understand a bit earlier that they can take action today to improve their health later on in life. The choices that we make when young will determine how healthy we will be in our old age.
Q: What is your view on prevention?
A: Prevention is an indispensable part of the value chain that helps contribute to a new healthcare paradigm. Healthy lifestyles, timely diagnosis and intervention are critical for delaying the onset of chronic diseases. And it will be the responsibility of all concerned stakeholders, including patients old and young, to actively take part in this endeavor.
Q: Can you tell us about the Social Progress Imperative?
A: The Social Progress Imperative works with partners to help increase awareness on social progress being as important as economic growth or gross domestic product (GDP). Our network consists of partner organizations in business, government and civil society that use our so-called Social Progress Index to improve human wellbeing and guide social investments.
Q: What is the Social Progress Index (SPI)?
A: The Social Progress Index complements the measure of national performance using traditional economic measures such as GDP with data on social and environmental performance. The Index measures the extent to which countries provide for the social and environmental needs of their citizens and defines social progress as the capacity of a society to meet the basic human needs of its citizens, establish the building blocks that allow citizens and communities to enhance and sustain the quality of their lives and create the conditions for all individuals to reach their full potential.
Q: How does the social progress index measure health?
A: There are two components in the index that we use to measure health. One of the components is around nutrition and basic medical care, which deals with some of the issues around child mortality, maternal mortality and nutrition. The second component is on health and wellness. That is, how are countries dealing with health issues. One of the toughest challenges for social progress is on the health and wellness component, which does not tend to improve as countries get richer.
Q: How has aging changed over the last 50 years?
A: We have seen that life expectancy has increased over the last 50 years and represents one of the crowning achievements of the last century, but also presents significant challenges. Societal aging may affect economic growth and many other areas, including the ability of states and communities to provide infrastructure, resources and healthcare services for older citizens.
Q: How do we begin the discussion on aging?
A: We need to partner with industry players like Bayer; NGOs like the International Federation on Aging; and governments at all levels and confront this urgent global challenge so we can define how we’re going to measure, track, improve, innovate and lead the discussion on health and aging.
Q: What can governments do to help raise awareness on healthy aging?
A: Governments can help raise awareness on aging issues by having a targeted policy dialogue that will help address the multi-faceted needs of an aging population.
Q: Aging has changed over the last 50 years. Are you now seeing aging impact communities?
A:Yes, health costs are rising and we have to deal with a demographic shift in our society. The current ratio of working population to old is four to one. By 2050, it will be two to one. This demographic shift will challenge us, but it also represents an opportunity to introduce structural changes to healthcare systems.
Q: How do you see the role of partnerships?
A: I believe partnerships are very important. Healthy aging requires all of us to work together, from government and NGOs to industry and digital. We all have to put our heads together to solve this ever complex topic.
Q: Can you tell us a little bit about the European Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Aging?
A: The European Commission has identified active and healthy aging as a major societal challenge common to all European countries, and an area which presents considerable potential for Europe to lead the world in providing innovative responses to this challenge. The European Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Aging ties in to the European Commission’s challenge and aims to help promote European competitiveness that addresses societal challenges through research and innovation.
We aim to do this in three ways:
- Enable EU citizens to lead healthy, active and independent lives while aging.
- Improve the sustainability and efficiency of social and healthcare systems.
- Boost and improve the competitiveness of the markets for innovative products and services, responding to the aging challenge at both an EU and global level, thus creating new opportunities for businesses.
Q: You recently wrote a booklet called, “Road to the Valley.” Could you elaborate a bit on this concept?
A: The “Road to the Valley” is about how our European cities should create knowledge and innovation clusters in every community that brings likeminded people together, whether it’s in health, digital or other innovations. I believe by focusing on “the Valley” we can bring people together to help solve tomorrow’s problems today.
One example of using the “Road to the Valley” approach is the program “Lifelines” in Groningen, Netherlands. This program is using three to five generations of family health data to detect which diseases occur among the participating families. This research will help predict the quality of life and preventive measures that may need to be taken to address possible genetic predispositions, whether that’s through prevention or therapeutic means.
Voices on Aging
Through research and development, Bayer is aiming to help an aging population live a life that is as active as possible. And through targeted awareness activities, younger generations can take steps to help prevent diseases, so they remain healthy later in life.
When it comes to aging, you’re not alone. Learn more about aging from people just like you in our video series Voices on Aging:
The Demographic Shift in Europe
The world’s population is facing a demographic shift. This phenomenon is varying from region to region, depending on respective fertility rates as well as life expectancies. Learn more about this in Europe:
The demographic shift is a global phenomenon, but particularly critical in East Asia and Pacific which is aging faster than any other region. In December 2016, Bayer therefore initiated a stakeholder dialogue event in Singapore entitled “Transforming Aging with Health Innovation” with the focus on the Asia Pacific region. Chaired by Dr. Amy Khor, Senior Minister of State from the ministry of health in Singapore, this forum brought together high-level stakeholders from across the region to further shape the discussion about the challenges and opportunities of an aging society.
On this occasion Bayer in collaboration with the National University of Singapore launched the open innovation program Grants4Apps Singapore. This global crowdsourcing initiative helps to foster and support innovative digital health technology by challenging developers, startups and entrepreneurs. Its focus in Singapore is to find innovative solutions to improve medication adherence in elderly people with chronic medical conditions.
Health innovation such as new medicines and healthcare technologies has an important role to play in addressing the challenges in our aging societies. Besides helping people live longer, health innovation can also help people live healthier and more productive lives. The forum’s panel discussion on “Transforming Aging with Health Innovation” has exactly addressed this topic. It was broadcast on Channel News Asia as an episode of their series “Perspectives”, a dedicated TV format focusing on societal themes. Join us in the discussion with the experts:
Voices on Aging from the Experts
We have asked the experts to give us a statement on their view on healthy aging. Learn more about the challenges an aging society has to tackle:
Medication adherence in elderly people
One crucial component in the treatment of chronic diseases is medication adherence. It is defined as “the extent to which a person’s behavior agrees with the agreed medication regimen from a health care provider”. Non-adherence has always been a problem among patients – approximately 50 % of patients do not take their medications as prescribed. And this is not only causing treatment failure but also higher costs and thus consequences for health care systems. Health care providers are faced with a unique set of problems working with patients, various and countless and especially critical for people over a certain age.
Get an impression on how far-reaching the topic of medication adherence is for elderly people and learn more about a few important factors:
With a degrading vision it’s even harder for elderly people to read through medical information or to distinguish between similar looking tablets.
With lower cognition elderly people have problems handling and following the medication regimen e.g. remembering what medicine to take, when and how.
Elderly are prone to multiple comorbidities and thus at a higher risk of polypharmacy which results in a higher number of medicines and an even more difficult medication regimen.
Elderly often have to spend a big amount of their retirement for their medicines, even more with multimorbidity.
The lower ability of elderly to open medication packages as well as to break the tablets or other drug handling is often causing non-adherence.
The Demographic Shift in Asia Pacific
The world’s population is facing a demographic shift. This phenomenon is varying from region to region, depending on respective fertility rates as well as life expectancies. Learn more about this fact in Asia Pacific: