The changes that are occurring in the demographic structure of populations across Europe are having major effects in nearly all domains of finance and industry. Although therer is widespread tendency to see the economic aspects of population ageing chiefly in terms of negatives – the ‘burden’ of increased numbers of older citizens – there are strong indications, backed up by economic arguments, that the gains in life expectancy have been a highly significant contributor to the improvements in GDP.  For the U.S., for example, authoritative estimates are that the increase in longevity over the past century has added $3.2 trillion to GDP annually. It is expected that when a proper realisation of the changing expectations of life is made, market dynamics and productivity will go through profound changes in the near future

Our vision for industry is threefold:

  1. to contribute to sustainable improvements in quality of life of people
  2. to help individuals to prevent disability, frailty and deteriorations in physical and mental health
  3. to offer people routes and products to cope better with potential issues that might otherwise have a negative influence on financial and functional independence. 

We emphasise that the opportunities for business in this context are very extensive, with scope in particular for innovations in financial services, consumer goods and information technologies.  

Ageing research in the EU at present is relatively poorly funded and structured.  In order to capitalise properly on the opportunity represented by the improvements in longevity, we argue that there needs to be a virtual European Ageing Institute that will effectively combine work across: (a) biogerontology (focusing on the underlying causes and mechanisms of ageing and how these feed in to age-related frailty, disability and disease); (b) socio-economic aspects and behavioural of ageing (in order to understand the origins of socioeconomic gradients in health and the barriers to uptake of lifestyle and other changes that might support healthier ageing), and as (c) studies of the ‘healthy phenotype’ (in order to understand the factors that sustain health, independence and quality of life at older ages). The latter area in particular has so far relatively little emphasis in  programmes across European countries but has great potential to lead to the germination of new products and services.

Finance and Industry panel members

Frans van der Ouderaa
Unilever Corporate Research, UK

Tom Ross
Faculty of Actuaries, UK

Claudio Franceschi
University of Bologna, Italy

Paul Garner
BT Group Chief Technology Office, UK

Stig Omholt
Cigene, Norway