Global Aging: What is there to debate?

Further to my Aging & Longevity Conference Round Up 2017 promise to update you on any new conferences that pop up through the year (that didn’t make the first of my list in January), here is another event coming up in London on April 24 & 25 at the Royal Society of Medicine (RSM) under the title: “Global Ageing: Challenges and Opportunities”.

What led me to hear of this is because for some reason the notification came directly to me, as it appears that the RSM or their conference partner King’s College London have added Change Rangers to their mailing list. As I looked through the content and speaker list for this conference, it struck me once again how wide ranging this discussion on Aging & Longevity is and how many niche topics rustle out like leaves from the tree.

Interestingly or not in this case, a few topics you will also find on several other conference agendas around the world such as: older people’s vulnerabilities in armed conflicts, work, retirement and health and future policies for dementia treatment and care.

So many of the conferences on these diverse topics are now getting to be repetitive, largely presented by, and attended by academics and policy makers as they highlight their research work. I certainly don’t intend to stop learning from all this, but the question soon becomes, how and when do these ideas and think tank insights flutter down to the ground to make visible change and better people’s lives in our communities, now or in the immediate near future?

Focus on what opportunities, is that the debate?

In the write up of this two-day London conference, the basic call to action is to “join an international panel of experts to open debates…” What is there to debate? Obviously, like so many other macro themes, there are challenges and opportunities in global aging, socially, politically, in science, health and medicine, and I wonder if we aren’t already well past the point of dwelling on the challenges and thus should be more poised to do more with the opportunities.

Internationally, depending on where you are, some of these topics will be of varying regional significance and in many cases of identical experience. If only for two reasons here’s why these conferences are worthwhile: to get a better understanding of how other societies not like ours are facing unique difficulties as a result of population aging and, to share great ideas to adapt appropriately to our specific society.

After that it comes down to who has the political will to change social policies to meet these aging opportunities for that immediate near future, with a third eye on the longer term. This also comes down to deciding who has the money and how much do we want to spend on what, like health care and medical issues as is a central focus for the Royal Society of Medicine event in London.

One day, it would be great to have a conference more widely promoted at an affordable price to include a non-academic, inter-generational audience of everyday people in direct interchange with these all-star panelists and have it streamed live and then maybe we can start messing around with the answers to get things done. Topics at these conferences are not just of concern for the older of us today, but for the younger who will one day be the older.

Macro influences of global ageing and all that comes with it, by all accounts have not reached a tipping point yet. So while RSA’s quoted stat of 1.5 billion people over 65 by the year 2050 seems way too far for those already 65, we might wonder if all our conversations around aging now will be wildly outdated or for that matter as predictable by then.

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