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Real-Time Data Capture Required for A Global Ageing Population

We are in the midst of a longevity revolution. In the 1890s, the chances of surviving above age 65 was pegged at less than 50% in countries like Sweden, with a relatively high life expectancy. Now the chance of surviving beyond age 65 in such countries with a high life expectancy is more than 90%. This is a testament to our socioeconomic and healthcare development. Population ageing, population growth, international migration and urbanisation are considered as the four megatrends that will have a lasting impact on the sustainable development of our world.

This, however, is a double-edged sword. The phenomenal increase in life expectancy, coupled with a low fertility rate, has resulted in population ageing across the world. Projections by the World Population Prospects 2019 (United Nations, 2019) predicts that 6 in 11 people will be above 65 years by 2050. This is a significant shift when you consider that only one in 11 people were above 65 in 2019.

Another interesting fact is that the world’s population hasn’t been ageing at the same rate.  Developed nations have had more time to acclimatise themselves to the ageing phenomenon. For example, it took 100 years for France’s population of 65+ to go from 7% t to 14%.  Most of the lesser developed countries do not have this luxury of time. Brazil, for example, witnessed the same demographic ageing of its population within a record two decades. This means that many countries around the world will have to adapt to this phenomenon within a short span of time. In short, they may grow old before they become rich enough to take care of their elderly.

Ensuring healthy ageing is at the centre of the effort to counter the effects of population ageing. Healthy ageing is not just the absence of disease. It is the maintenance of the individual’s functional ability even in old age. This can be achieved only through a global movement to promote lifelong health and preventive care.  This movement is further challenged with the shift in epidemiology brought on by the transition from high to low mortality and fertility, and socioeconomic development. One of the major epidemiologic trends of the current century is the rise of chronic and degenerative diseases in countries throughout the world. It is projected that in the coming years, noncommunicable diseases such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes will be the leading cause of death and disability rather than infectious and parasitic diseases. Health and long-term care systems should be ready to overcome this changing epidemiology while also focussing on age-appropriate integrated care for the ageing population.

Longevity has been an aspirational goal for mankind from prehistoric times. We’ve spent billions of dollars and many human lifetimes researching ways and means to increase our lifespan. We, however, have now reached a juncture where we need to ensure that we are able to sustain the quality of life of our ageing population without being a burden to the whole. The answers to some of these crucial questions will shed some light on how this mega trend will affect our sustainable development.
Will we witness increased and extended periods of social engagement and productivity from our ageing populations in the future? How will ageing affect social and health care infrastructures and costs? What can we do to improve the health and productivity of our ageing population? How will the accelerated ageing in lesser developed countries affect their socioeconomic status and what can we do to alleviate the situation?

We don’t have all the answers now as this is an unprecedented phenomenon. What we can do is hypothesise and project possible scenarios and solutions based on research and data collected in the here and now.

Digital transformation has revolutionized the way we collect data and analyse it.  Apart from the traditional methods of data collection, gerontologists and geriatricians can access real-time data about the health and lifestyle of the elderly through information and communication technology (ICT) devices such as smartphones and wearables. Multiple streams of data can be collected from users. The data can be self-reported survey data as well as data on physical activity. Devices like smartphones, smartwatches, and other wearables, which can be used to collect real-time data for analysis, are defined as mHealth (mobile health) technologies by the World Health Organisation. Real-time data collected and analysed in such a way gives a clear view of the current healthcare delivery systems while providing an understanding of the resources that would be needed in the future. Such data repositories can help organizations become more agile and hyper-productive, in addition to being able to predict future trends, which in turn will enable advance planning and preparation for the care of the elderly.* This will also help us ensure that care for the elderly does not affect the overall socioeconomic development of the emerging population.

*For organizations on the digital transformation journey, agility is key in responding to a rapidly changing technology and business landscape. Now more than ever, it is crucial to deliver and exceed on organizational expectations with a robust digital mindset backed by innovation. Enabling businesses to sense, learn, respond, and evolve like a living organism, will be imperative for business excellence going forward. A comprehensive, yet modular suite of services is doing exactly that. Equipping organizations with intuitive decision-making automatically at scale, actionable insights based on real-time solutions, anytime/anywhere experience, and in-depth data visibility across functions leading to hyper-productivity, Live Enterprise is building connected organizations that are innovating collaboratively for the future.