Modern Aging Symposium 2018: Aging Unlimited

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For age is opportunity no less than youth itself, though in another dress, and as the evening twilight fades away, the sky is filled with stars, invisible by day.

– Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882) U.S .poet.

Modern Aging Singapore, convened the third Modern Aging Symposium on 5 May, 2018. The three-hour symposium, held at Duke NUS ,welcomed a vibrant cross-section of the Modern Aging community, and launched the fourth Modern Aging business accelerator program.

Presentations centred around the theme ‘Aging Unlimited’, which seeks to transform the community’s understanding of aging into one that is intergenerational, holistic, and open to a plethora of opportunities.

Researchers, entrepreneurs, and healthcare professionals shared actionable points, and a wellspring of stories to draw inspiration from. Discussions were vigorous, and the overall spirit was one of empowerment and positivity.

Here, we share the highlights:

‘Living Longer in a rapidly changing environment: Lessons from Singapore’ – Keynote by Professor Angelique Chan, Centre for Ageing Research and Education

Professor Chan identified loneliness, healthy life expectancy, productive aging, and intergenerational transfers as areas of major concern, and outlined how policies could address these issues.

Beginning with loneliness, Professor Chan suggested that policy should address ‘perceived loneliness’ via psychosocial services and how the community and health care providers have an important role in raising awareness. She affirmed the value of multi-generational housing, but emphasised it should not be a panacea.

Transitioning into healthy life expectancy, Professor Chan defined it as the proportion of years living without disability. She stated that policies should consider gender and minorities, and generate more programs focusing on self-management of chronic conditions, citing ‘SCOPE’ as a good example.

Finally, Professor Chan discussed aging productively – how older people are a valuable resource to both the workforce and to their families. She explained how policies which encouraged employment among older people showed positive outcomes, and policies which strengthened intergenerational relationships were not only positive, but necessary.

“My Modern Aging Journey” by Modern Aging start-ups Zuzulabs, Alo and Movinc

The three winning start-ups, alumni of the 2017 Modern Aging accelerator program, brought the audience on their entrepreneurial journeys, from planting the seed of a business idea to how the accelerator helped them test assumptions and validate ideas on the path to producing a prototype.

A unifying thread wove the three stories together: technology as a catalyst for transforming lives.

Other commonalities included the importance of having a refined understanding of their customer segment, mindset, and behaviours, and a high tolerance for change and uncertainty.

Each team’s success is a testament to their vision, hard work, and grit, and showed how the accelerator program nurtures startups by providing unique access to industry knowledge, networks, training, and mentorship.

“A question of Age – is Dementia Preventable?” by Prof Kua Ee Heok, NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine

Prof Kua, sharing lessons learnt through decades of research, spoke on the scale, impact, and costs of dementia, and provided a practical framework for how society can face this rising tide with dignity and compassion.

The author of the seminal ‘Colours of Ageing’, Prof Kua discussed the ‘Age Well Everyday Program’, which aims to mitigate the effects of dementia through early diagnosis, screening for risk factors, as well as therapies which slow cognitive decline such as gentle exercise, art, music, and gardening.

“Ageing, Nutrition, and The Immune System” by Dr Nabil Boscoe, Nestle

An expert in nutritional immunology, Dr Boscoe explained that nutrition could indeed improve the immune response in the frail elderly, and that a functional immune response could be preserved even in this demographic through healthy behaviours.

“Grey, Silver and Gold: The Economic Challenge and Business Opportunity” by Dr Manaen Ma, Health Care and Life Science Deloitte Southeast Asia

Dr Ma’s presentation proved a robust and optimistic conclusion to the 2018 Modern Aging Symposium.

Dividing his presentation into three segments : grey, silver, and gold, Dr Ma began by illustrating how ‘greying’ global demographics are having profound effects on the workforce, economies, and nations. The underlying theme of ‘grey’ was an urgent call to action, as Dr Ma demonstrated to the audience, using Japan as an example, how most of Asia would be gravely affected by problems attributable to a rapidly shrinking workforce: declining GDP, growing budget deficits, and increasing healthcare expenditure.

Segueing into ‘silver’, Dr Ma pinpoints opportunities for C-suite executives savvy enough to capitalize on longevity and nurture their older workforces. Dr Ma highlighted issues most relevant to older workers : policies to prevent age discrimination, encouraging upskilling, and viewing the vary nature of work with a fresh perspective: for example, the growing trend towards portfolio careers.

Ending on a ‘golden’ note, Dr Ma talked about cross-industry collaborations, and how industry could capitalise on key consumption sectors targeted to older people – using Singapore’s Silver Economy as an example – expenditure by the population over 50 was expected to grow 176% over a span of a decade, from 2015 to 2025.

The future looks bright indeed.

Written by

Eva Saddiqui

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