Aging Sustainably
Six considerations for a healthier, longer living population
By Kavitha Hariharan and Aditi Kothari
 // . //  Health Innovation Journal Vol. 5 //  Aging Sustainably

By 2050, nearly 22% of the world’s population will be 60 or older, up from 12% in 2015. As people live longer, the healthcare industry will have to respond by rethinking senior care and how to engage broader communities. We identified six areas where stakeholders can come together to reimagine how services are delivered and healthy aging becomes a strategic priority.

For nearly 20 years, Blue Zones are areas around the globe where people have fewer chronic diseases, are living longer and healthier due to diet, exercise, and more. What works: focus on prevention; 95% plant-based diet; eating until 80% full; regular daily physical activity — walking, climbing, gardening, and farming; living close to family and friends — and sense of community.

From prevention to diet and exercise to advances in treatments like stem cell therapies, enabling people to age well requires building alliances across communities.

Virtual assistants

Technologies like Siri and Alexa can help seniors live independently, providing knowledge, assistance, peace of mind, and a sense of companionship.

Case study

Innovative public housing

Innovative public housing blocks in Singapore easily integrate healthcare, shopping, and social activities into seniors' lives.

Case study

Ambient and wearable sensors

Ambient and wearable sensors can continuously and passively monitor environmental, motion, location, and health indicators, and share data and alerts with trusted contacts.

Case study

walkable streets and sidewalks

Multigenerational volunteers help create walkable streets and sidewalks in Washington, D.C., by reporting safety issues through a mobile app.

Case study

Integrating digital health into the home and with community-based care could make it easier for seniors to age in place.

Sources: AARP, CLS, AgeFriendly

intergenerational friendships

Akita City, Japan

The Club of Friendship Between Generations in Akita provides community spaces for city residents in their 20s to 80s to meet up, form friendships across generations, and participate in social activities.

Project site

Senior planet

Uniated States

Senior Planet has community centers and co-working spaces in six US locations (New York City; North Country, New York; Montgomery County, Maryland; Colorado; San Antonio, Texas; Palo Alto, California) to help seniors learn tech skills, get fit, make friends, and start businesses.

Project site

Shedding isolation

New South Wales, Australia

The Lane Cove Community Men’s Shed started a movement of spaces for older, mostly retired, often isolated men to gather and socialize with others while working on woodworking projects.

Project site

city housing for intergenerational living

Lyon, France

An inclusive city housing program allows seniors and college students to live together. The college students get discounted rent and help seniors with chores while also interacting with them socially.

Project site

friendship benches

Zimbabwe

The Friendship Bench trains grandmothers — trusted community health workers — to provide basic psychological education and therapies to local residents.

Project site

Building scalable programs that connect seniors to their communities can keep them active and engaged and prevent harm associated with social isolation.

Sources: AARP, Extranet, FastCompany, BBC

Hire and retain workers

66% of the total US healthcare workforce shortage in 2025 is expected to stem from a lack of home care aides.

2.5x higher vacancy rate for senior care in England compared to wider UK economy.

57% of senior care residents in Australia are estimated to live in understaffed facilities.

boost workers skills and qualifications

Top skills gaps self-reported by senior care workers: stress management, evaluating patients’ social and psychological needs, advanced healthcare systems, handling other people’s emotions efectively, handling one’s own emotions effectively.

improve health and safety in the workplace

31% long-term care and home care workers globally reported that they still did not always have access to necessary PPE (as of March 2021).

3 in 4 social care workers in the UK report serious harm to mental health from work during the pandemic,

As labor markets tighten, employers must reshape the work experience. Greater rewards including living wages, better benefits, stability and flexibility. Improved career pathways are created through training, mentorship programs, supporting team-based care. Occupational support, assistive technology, health and safety risk reduction will also be essential.

Sources: Marsh McLennan Advantage, Vital Signs: Workforce Challenges for Senior Care (2021)