The 617 million dollar question your parents want answered

What is the 617 million dollar question? The aged population is increasing faster than any other on earth and soon–if not already–there’ll be even more people aged 65+ than under the age of 5. The 617 million dollar question comes when everyone aged 65+ gives a dollar to answer ‘how can we age healthy?’

Yes, there are 617 million people aged 65+ on the planet, and that’s just current estimates. By 2050, it’s expected that this number will more than double, while the world population will go up by only about a third. Europe will have roughly a quarter of its population aged 65+. And while the top 4 ‘oldest countries’ now are Japan, Germany, Italy, and Greece, by 2050 it’ll be Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. We’re all getting older, fast, and if you keep reading the numbers in the report from the US Census Bureau, you’d give a dollar for healthy aging too, no matter your age.

The main problem with aging is that the older we get, the more likely we are to get sick and to get diseases. The major strategy in health care is to wait until you get a disease, and then start treating it. That might be why a disease such as Type II diabetes, where it’s thought that 9 out of 10 people could have prevented it’s occurrence with different lifestyle choices2, is prevalent by ~18% in the 65+ aged population1. Clearly, it’s not just about treating the disease, but a major emphasis should be on preventing those diseases from occurring in the first place3,4. For most age-related diseases though, a healthy lifestyle is a necessity but unfortunately it’s not enough.

Now, what happens when so much of the world is aged 65+? As things are currently going: a disaster. Why? That’s because currently, we don’t invest enough in preventing age-related diseases – so nearly all of those 65+ aged people will get sick, and with multiple health issues. We need to invest more in prevention; tracking aging, promoting healthy aging lifestyles, and developing medicines that enable healthy aging. It’s not just a wish: based on the 2050 predictions, we need healthy aging.

It’s more than a 617 Million dollar question.

The 617 million dollar question is about healthy aging. The government asks it when it looks at its pension funds. Healthcare asks it when it sees its hospital bills. You ask it when you see your parents. And it’s becoming far more than a 617 million dollar question: in 2018 alone, ‘anti-aging’ drug companies raised over 850 million in investments.

The world is asking. It’s time to start answering.

Going deeper…

Longo M, Bellastella G, Maiorino MI, Meier JJ, Esposito K, Giugliano D. Diabetes and Aging: From Treatment Goals to Pharmacologic Therapy. Frontiers in Endocrinology. 2019;10. doi: 10.3389/fendo.201900045
Ley SH, Ardisson Korat AV, Sun Q, et al. Contribution of the Nurses’ Health Studies to Uncovering Risk Factors for Type 2 Diabetes: Diet, Lifestyle, Biomarkers, and Genetics. American Journal of Public Health. 2016;106(9):1624-1630. doi: 10.2105/ajph.2016303314
Capewell S, O’Flaherty M. Rapid mortality falls after risk-factor changes in populations. Lancet. 2011;378(9793):752-753. [PubMed]
Ezzati M, Riboli E. Can noncommunicable diseases be prevented? Lessons from studies of populations and individuals. Science. 2012;337(6101):1482-1487. [PubMed]
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