Reframing Ageing – Let’s talk longevity?

A few weeks ago I helped to run a collaborative innovation workshop in Singapore, themed around opportunities in ageing and longevity.

Letter from then British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher sent Hugh Mason’s grandad

The workshop was managed by Hugh Mason of JFDI and sponsored by BOSCH. It brought together a group of entrepreneurs and enterprises including Munich Re, BP, OCBC Bank, Singapore Press Holdings. The innovation output was stunning but NDA’s prohibit further discussion of them here.

I recommend you take time to read Hugh’s out-take of the event. Being relatively new to the ageing space, his thinking is clear and fresh.

On the first day of the workshop, I started out by asking the participants how they define “old”. As always, the answers to this question are fascinating and usually polarised depending on the age of the participant. Stereotypically, younger people pick a number. But the age they pick varies from 40–95. People who have more years behind them tend to talk about states of mind — “You’re as young as you feel’’ or “You’re old when you decide your old”. The psychology behind these different age-based responses is important.

Most people characterise ageing first in terms of health, often leaping straight to visions of wheelchairs and adult diapers – thus immediately narrowing the potential for innovative solutions. A minority talk about changing values and social roles. They speak of becoming a grandparent for the first time, becoming a mentor, or retirement.

Ageing connotes old, decrepit and failing. The road to death. Longevity on the other hand, seems to convey the art of living a long, healthy and happy existence. Consider that 50% of today’s children born in the west will live to 100+ we need a broader approach to ageing that considers the impact of longer life in terms of education, work and a retirement.

Would we gain more traction with business if we reframe ‘ageing’ and start talking about ‘longevity’ instead?