By 2050, the worldwide population of adults over the age of 65 will have more than doubled, reaching a staggering 1.6 billion people, with the majority of the increase occurring in emerging countries. This growth will be one of the most significant social, economic, and political transformations of our time. This will have a significant impact on existing healthcare, government, and social systems, which are currently either not designed to accommodate an ageing population or are not built to the scale required to accommodate it.
However, we can begin to make investments in our support systems (which are enabled and scaled by technology) that include a coordinated response from governments, society, academia, and the commercial sector, as well as a coordinated reaction and action from the engineering communities globally.
Prior to investing in creative solutions, it will be necessary to recognise the demands of senior citizens and to understand the obstacles they face in their caregiving. These are the concerns that will guide the development of a solution agenda.
- Continuing to live and age in place
When someone says they want to age in place, they are referring to the desire to remain independent in a home of their choosing while also participating in the community. Important components of ageing in place include meaningful social contact and a sense of well-being. As an alternative to dividing people into communities based on their age (such as retirement communities), intergenerational living can give elderly generations with companionship and a sense of purpose.
The cessation of driving is related with an increase in depression symptoms as well as a number of other health problems. As a result, ensuring that the mobility needs of the elderly are met is critical to reducing the negative effects on their health and well-being in later life.
- Obstacles to a healthy lifestyle
Because of the health issues that older persons endure, they are unable to take use of the potential benefits of increased longevity. Unfortunately, older persons are disproportionately afflicted by chronic illnesses, with 80% of seniors in the western societies suffering from at least one chronic disease and 70% suffering from two or more chronic diseases. A number of the most frequent diseases are heart disease, stroke, cancer, and diabetes.
The global prevalence of dementia is estimated to be 47.5 million individuals, with estimates indicating that the number would nearly triple by 2050.
- Involvement in social activities
A favourable influence on mortality, well-being, and life satisfaction is seen when people are included in or actively engaged in society through a social network (either through work, volunteering, childcare, learning, or teaching). In fact, it is estimated that the consequences of social isolation and loneliness cost billions in care every year.
- Financial well-being and reskilling
In addition, a considerable percentage of low and middle-income seniors face financial difficulties, which necessitates the extension of their retirement savings. Because of increased longevity, even those individuals who have the financial means to retire want to continue working for a longer period of time. However, they may be subjected to age discrimination, despite the fact that an intergenerational workforce that embraces mentoring and reverse mentoring can spark innovation and organisational success.
It is critical to recognise that older adults are a diverse collection of persons with a wide range of physical, cognitive, and sensory skills, among other characteristics. It is not always the case, contrary to common opinion, that chronological age and health state are directly related to one another.
- Ageing with disability
While disability in the older population can come from age-related losses in sensory, movement, and cognitive capabilities, individuals can also suffer from disability as a result of pre-existing impairments such as heart disease or diabetes. In addition to providing assistance to older persons with a variety of capacities, it is critical to provide assistance to those who have long-term impairments.
- Scarcity of professional caregivers
In many parts of the world, health and social care systems are struggling to fulfil the needs of the elderly population. For example, according to recent longitudinal research conducted in the United Kingdom, more than half of older persons who require assistance with everyday activities do not receive any assistance. Germany, India, Japan, and the United States are among the countries where there is a perceptible need for a sustainable social care system with adequate caregivers to deal with an ageing population.
A multi-stakeholder approach to the ageing population
Meeting the demands of an ageing population represents a significant untapped market opportunity, yet the market is fragmented. This offers a problem, but it also creates an opportunity for engineers to support in building a wider ecosystem to develop, where brand, trust, and dependability from a diverse range of stakeholders are crucial for scaling up innovation on a large scale.
Device manufacturers, developers, enterprises such as retirement homes and insurance companies, society, policymakers, and academia should work together to develop a unified platform that incorporates the Internet of Things and artificial intelligence in order to truly bring holistic services to market. More significantly, older adults must be at the forefront of this transformation, ensuring that their values and opinions are taken into consideration when developing solutions.
What role should engineers, academics, design thinkers, and policy makers play in working together to expedite the development and implementation of human-centred artificial intelligence that promotes the autonomy, well-being, and dignity of senior citizens? Share your thoughts/comments below.
Read our new free report, Artificial intelligence and ageing, to learn more.