Ageing and Longevity

These 6 ‘longevity economy’ principles can help an ageing population live well

Senior citizen walking down the street.

As the global population ages, there are things we can do to help manage the process. Image: Unsplash/Jose Antonio Gallego Vázquez

Victoria Masterson
Senior Writer, Forum Agenda
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Ageing and Longevity

  • By 2050, the number of people aged over 60 is expected to more than double to 2.1 billion.
  • The World Economic Forum’s Longevity Economy Principles set out 6 actions to fund our longer lives as the global population ages.
  • The principles include providing universal financial education and prioritizing healthy ageing.

We’re all getting older – and increasingly living longer.

By 2050, the number of people aged over 60 is expected to more than double to 2.1 billion.

So what does this mean for us financially – and for the wider economy?

These are questions the World Economic Forum explores in a new report, Longevity Economy Principles: The Foundation for a Financially Resilient Future.

Have you read?

The report sets out six ‘longevity economy’ principles. These seek to address the challenges of how to fund our longer lives – and also change how we view ageing.

In a longevity economy, people have what they need to live healthy and financially resilient, longer lives – although pensions, retirement systems and social benefits may differ from country to country.

The world's population is ageing.
The global population is ageing. Image: Visual Capitalist

Principle 1: Ensure financial resilience across key life events

Almost four in 10 of us face financial instability as we age, because of unplanned career breaks, illness or unexpected retirement. Lay-offs, caring responsibilities and the death of loved ones are other key life events that can push people and their families to financial hardship and, in extreme cases, the brink of poverty.

To help people navigate these challenges, action and collaboration between the public and private sectors is crucial.

For example, policymakers can design programmes that protect people from falling into poverty because of key life events. They can incentivize people to save for retirement and provide financial support for informal carers.

Employers can give workers access to financial savings and insurance vehicles. Financial services providers can design innovative savings products. And citizens' groups can help people find the right tools and give a voice to community needs.

Affordable and stable housing is also “critical” to healthy longevity, the report stresses.

Differences in available financial cushion.
Percentages of adults who responded they have a financial cushion to last them. Image: Longevity Economy Principles

Principle 2: Provide universal access to impartial financial education

Only a third of people globally could be described as financially literate. This contributes to inequalities in wealth and life expectancy.

But with financial education, people can make informed financial decisions.

To make a difference, policymakers can collaborate with the private sector and citizens' groups to develop a financial literacy curriculum.

Discover

What is the World Economic Forum doing to improve healthcare systems?

Employers can give workers relevant financial education and guidance. Finance firms can develop unbiased financial education content and citizens' groups can help communities access financial education.

Longevity economy examples already operating include MoneySense, Singapore’s national financial education programme. It has been running since 2003 and is designed to help Singaporeans manage their money and make sound financial decisions.

Wide variation in financial literacy around the world (percentage of financially literate adults)
Only a third of people globally could be described as financially literate. Image: Longevity Economy Principles

Principle 3: Prioritize healthy ageing as key for the longevity economy

Life expectancy on average has climbed 55% from 47 to 73 years in the last 70 years. But a fifth of our lifespans on average will be affected by illness. Medical costs are also a big worry. More focus on preventing ill health, rather than treating it when it happens, will help improve the quality of our lives in older age.

Longevity economy actions include policymakers and health services providing broad access to quality health education and services. Check-ups for key disease groups could be increased.

Employers can offer health and wellbeing benefits and programmes, like health insurance, critical illness cover and mental health benefits. And citizens' groups can provide accessible health education and services and help to make sure communities are heard.

In developing economies in every world region, adults named medical expenses as their biggest financial worry
Medical expenses are a big financial worry. Image: Longevity Economy Principles

Principle 4: Evolve jobs and lifelong skill-building for a multigenerational workforce

A quarter of people aged 55 and older want to work in old age, but face barriers in finding opportunities.

In the longevity economy, jobs and skills need to fill this gap, so people can keep working across the generations.

Policies can be developed to help companies and workers evolve “beyond traditional retirement ages,” the Forum says.

Employers can make it easier for people to rejoin the workforce after career breaks. Citizens’ groups can also work with the public sector on skills building initiatives and collaborate with the private sector on training best practice.

UN world population prospects for 2023 and 2050
Workforces will change as the population ages. Image: Longevity Economy Principles

Principle 5: Design systems and environments for social connection and purpose

Loneliness can significantly impact health and wellbeing. So, as we get older, social connections are vital.

Longevity economy initiatives could include policymakers collaborating with the private sector to build environments for communities to connect across the generations.

Companies can find ways to keep older workers connected to the workplace and the sense of purpose this brings. Citizens’ groups can help to tackle social isolation and encourage people of all ages to take part in community activities.

Longevity economy examples include AgeWell, a programme piloted in Cape Town, South Africa, in 2014 and since launched internationally. The programme recruits elderly caregivers who check on the health and well-being of other seniors.

The impact of loneliness on workforce productivity
Loneliness can affect our health and wellbeing. Image: Longevity Economy Principles

Principle 6: Address longevity inequalities across gender, race and class

The benefits of longevity aren’t felt equally by everyone. There are inequalities in income, wealth and well-being.

For example, around one in six Black Americans over the age of 65 in the United States live in poverty, compared to one in 15 white Americans.

Education, resources and tools need to be designed to promote inclusion.

For example, policymakers and businesses need to address factors that contribute to inequalities in financial resilience and longevity, including gender, race, ethnicity, geography, disability and socioeconomic background. Access to quality health, retirement and social care need to be equal for everyone, regardless of their background or job.

Citizens’ groups can continue advocating for those who feel marginalized and holding the private and public sectors to account.

Life expectancy in years by race/ethnicity (US), 2019-2021
Factors including ethnicity can affect how long we live. Image: Longevity Economy Principles
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Related topics:
Ageing and LongevityEconomic Progress
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