First Edition of Newsletter

The idea is to provide an update on the various themes that my work focuses on based both on what I see happening plus my own latest research and reading.
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Dear *|FNAME|*,

Welcome to the first edition of this newsletter and I hope you enjoy reading it. The idea is to provide an update on the various themes that my work focuses on based both on what I see happening plus my own latest research and reading.

If you like it please forward it on, if you have feedback its most welcome and if you don’t like it then please hit the unsubscribe link at the bottom.

There is hardly anything about Covid-19 in this newsletter. That may add to its appeal for some and detract for others. At the time of writing the situation is extremely worrying and changing every day– both in terms of public health and economic impact. Right now this is a general public health worry that should concern us all. Indeed its encouraging to see how widespread the sense of collective responsibility is in terms of ‘social distancing’ and taking measures to slow the spread of the virus. 
 
However, the fact current estimates of mortality rates suggest they rise strongly with age suggests an important interaction with an ageing society. With more people around the world now aged over 65 than under 5 even the way a potential pandemic spreads and impacts will be different in an ageing society. I will return to the interaction between Covid-19 and ageing society/longevity in a later newsletter when things are hopefully clearer but for now I wish you and those close to you the best of health.

Lets talk facts

#1 – A Silver Age of Economic Growth

I continually find myself impressed at just how much of current economic growth is dependent on older workers. Across the G7 all of the employment growth of the last 10 years is accounted for by workers aged over 55 and in the EU it accounts for more than 200%! Its about time business started to realise that keeping and attracting this age group should be a key part of their HR strategy.

#2 – UK longevity
Despite concerns over slowing gains in life expectancy the latest ONS updates for the UK suggest  
  •  Life expectancy for a girl born today is 90.2 (cohort measures)
     
  •  More than 50% of babies born today will live into their 90s 
     
  • 20% of girls will live into their 100s. 
Raising public awareness about this projected longevity is so important and a key part of a longevity agenda if people are to be given an opportunity to prepare for these longer lives. In order to achieve this it would be much better if governments focused on the cohort rather than period measures of life expectancy in their releases (see here for an explanation). This difference will be all the more important given the likely adverse impact of COVID-19 on 2020 data which will create a bigger gap between period and likely cohort estimates of life expectancy.
Discovered Whilst Reading
Whilst rereading Pat Thane’s wonderful ”The Long History of Old Age” (a beautifully illustrated book that looks at how narratives of old age have changed over time) I came across this great drawing by Saul Steinberg (seems like its actually available for purchase)
 


I love the contrast with the traditional medieval ‘stages of man’ pictures. However, the usual last stage showing a grim pale figure in the arms of death is replaced by a rather grim and lost man on a beach in the arms of no one. The theme of ‘The 100 Year Life’ was about how we bring colour and purpose to all stages of life in response to increasing longevity so this sketch really grabbed me. Please do send artwork for me to include in future newsletters.
 Did you see?


I did like this story. Its about a 101 year old man living in London who applied to stay in the UK post Brexit and was asked to come in with his parents to prove his identity. Turns out it isn’t an attempt to reduce immigration but a computer glitch whereby ‘101’ was read as ‘01’. I wonder if a 100 year life will lead to a demographic version of the Year 2K bug? 

Still, on the positive side, the growing number of news items around ageing and longer lives is hopefully stimulating business interest in the topic. Rightly there is much business focus on the need to adapt to environmental sustainability and AI but ageing and longevity is still not given enough attention. I was pleased then for the opportunity to write for British Airways Business Life magazine on the topic. I do believe that ‘Firms who best understand this longevity economy will find themselves at the heart of the world’s largest emerging market.’ I am encouraged by the nature of recent conversations with a number of companies that something is beginning to stir, still early days though.


I did enjoy talking to Nobel prize winner Sir Chris Pissarides in this podcast. I think Chris is spot on when he says there is no limit to the number of services that people can enjoy and share his faith in human ingenuity to sustain future employment. 

We shouldn’t see longer lives and smart new technologies as a problem but need to start a discussion about what we want from these mega trends so we can seize the opportunities they offer. We need to start thinking about what we as individuals as well as companies and society need to do to start to adjust for this coming future.
 
My worry is if we don’t start this debate soon, based on the current trajectory and interests of those pushing where tech is going, it will lead to the opposite of human flourishing.
Keep an eye out for…


Which I guess leads me neatly to this piece of news. Its official! May 28th is the launch date for my next book The New Long Life. This is a follow up to The 100 Year Life that delves deeper into how longevity is affecting us individually and socially but also looks at how it interacts with technology. With The 100 Year Life one of the aims was to change the narrative away from a pessimistic one around ageing to something more positive about longevity. The aim The New Long Life is to continue to do this but also help reframe the debate around technology too.
 
Our publisher refers to it as a ‘practical Homo Deus’ which is a delightful characterisation. Needless to say, I would be delighted if the book has even only some of the success of Yuval Noah Harari’s work. For the impatient amongst you here is a pre-order link. I will update on publication dates for the US, Japan and other translations in my next newsletter.
Related Readings

A sumptuous book, visually and intellectually, which provides a historical review of old age in Western Europe. What is unique about the modern world is how many people get to enjoy old age but there have always been old people!

In general, I don’t like studies which isolate a sector or a group and then calculate their contribution to GDP. The economy is too interlinked to make those calculations meaningful. However, the AARP have commissioned a study to crank through the numbers and its hard to deny that the longevity economy is big business and due to get even bigger. According to their estimates, the over 50s account for $8.3 trillion of U.S GDP in 2018 and that’s set to rise to $28.2 trillion by 2050. 
 
I remain uneasy though about lumping everyone over 50 into one category. As so many people live beyond 80, let alone 50, we need more nuances about what it means to be ‘old’. We wouldn’t lump everyone under 50 together into a homogenous group and expect meaningful insights and neither should we for the over 50s. That’s especially true given the diversity in how people age and the substantial shifts in behaviour that are occurring at these ages.
 
This gets to the heart of an issue that ageing groups wrestle with. In order to show how important ageing is, statistics are used to emphasise the sheer size of the over 50, over 65 or over 80 demographic. Yet often this is combined with a message about how we are ageing is changing and 50 and 65 isnt ‘old’ any more or that this is a diverse group with diverse needs. This creates an internal tension between emphasising the distinct importance of this group whilst at the same time advocating that they are seen just as individuals. If you want to avoid age stereotypes then its difficult to talk about the ‘over 50s’.
 
I think ultimately the ageing lobby will win when its widely recognised that older people are a varied group of people with varied needs and challenges. In other words, when their age isn’t seen as their key defining characteristic.
With everyone working remotely I intend to host some webinars in the coming months with the first one scheduled for 16 April. More details forthcoming. 
 If you are still reading thank you and more soon. Please do offer feedback as well as to what would make the newsletter work best for you.
Andrew J. Scott is Professor of Economics at London Business School and consulting scholar at Stanford University’s Center on Longevity, having previously held positions at Harvard and Oxford. Board member and advisor to a range of corporates and governments, he is co-founder of The Longevity Forum and a member of the advisory board of the Office for Budget Responsibility and the UK Cabinet Office Honours Committee.
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