Asia is home to the largest population of older persons and to some of the most rapidly aging countries globally. Facing the changing demographic landscape of the region, countries are starting to recognize the importance of preparing for an aging society and the continuing need to promote the wellbeing and social inclusion of older persons. The Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia (ERIA) and the Japan Center for International Exchange (JCIE) convened the 2022 AHWIN Forum in Japan, which will chair the 2023 G7 meetings. This Forum sought to encourage and inform effective aging-related policies throughout the world and to foster regional cooperation in promoting healthy and active aging among older persons in Asia. The focus this year was on regional efforts to translate data and innovations into better policies, products, and programs for healthy aging and care for older persons, and on discussing best practices in designing age-friendly cities that enable people to stay active and connected and foster solidarity among generations.
The AHWIN Forum is a special ERIA-JCIE initiative, convened under the auspices of the Government of Japan’s Asia Health and Wellbeing Initiative (AHWIN) to bring together policymakers, researchers, private sector enterprises, and practical program implementers across the region for a dialogue on the future direction of global and regional collaboration to harness the benefits of data, technology, and innovation for the promotion of healthy aging in Asia and throughout the world. The Forum was immediately followed by an award ceremony and reception for the recipients of the 2022 Healthy Aging Prize for Asian Innovation (see below).
CO-ORGANIZERS: Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia (ERIA) | Japan Center for International Exchange (JCIE)
SUPPORTERS: Cabinet Secretariat Office of Healthcare Policy, Government of Japan; Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare of Japan; Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology (OIST) Foundation
- Given the speed of aging in Asia, countries in the region should be preparing for major demographic shifts, but overall there are very mixed levels of preparedness globally, and few countries are ready to meet the needs and seize the opportunities of longer lives. Preparing financially, socially, and scientifically for longer lifespans is a global imperative.
- The National Academy of Medicine’s Global Roadmap for Healthy Longevity provides strong evidence that supports the potential for peoples’ healthspan to equal their lifespan, or in other words, that people can stay healthy throughout their lives.
The following recommendations from the report were highlighted as of particular interest to AHWIN:
- Governments and the private sector should partner to design user-centered and cohesion-enabling intergenerational communities at the city, neighborhood, and home levels. This includes making broadband accessible, addressing the digital divide, and designing public transportation that addresses the first and last mile needs.
- Investment in public health systems is critical in areas such as prevention and wellness. All countries should establish 5-year targets and use data to tell us if targets are being met.
- In order to shift health care systems to focus on healthy longevity, health systems should adopt affordable, accessible, and culturally appropriate models. There is a need to strengthen the geriatrics workforce since there is constant shortage of specialists. And governments should empower citizens with the tools and data needed to manage their own health.
- Data shows that intergenerational teams are more productive and innovative, thus it is encouraged to engage more older persons in the workforce. Utilizing the capabilities and contributions of older people can create new human and social capital, which will in turn enhance economic capital and increase GDP.
- Longevity can be thought of as the next big technology disruptor. If we age in a “healthy” way, our increased life expectancy could create enormous value for ourselves and society. For example, if workers over 55 years of age work one more year, GDP could increase by 1.5% per year, or more than US$300 million per year, and these represent “health-created value” or value arising from good health.
- There is a critical need to generate innovations and technology that specifically meet the needs of older people and address their unique challenges, such as geriatric syndrome, multiple pathologies, and polypharmacy. Geriatricians have an important role to play in identifying areas where innovation is needed, such as instability, immobility, incontinence, intellectual impairment, and insomnia.
- Educational opportunities that allow people to study and learn across multiple disciplines can help drive innovation at the intersection of different fields, for example engineering and medicine. It is also important for educational institutions to include considerations around aging in their curricula.
- There was a call to think of broadband access as a “super determinant of health,” with data showing that increases in broadband penetration are negatively correlated with COVID mortality, implying that digitalization could lead to decreased deaths from infectious diseases.
- In addressing the digital divide among the region and between generations, standardization of technology use through establishing international standards, cross-sectoral collaboration, and skills development is key.
- In designing age-friendly cities, there should be a shift in mindset to focus on the following objectives: to encourage older persons to step out into the community instead of being homebound, to promote adaptive design rather than universal design, and to engage older persons involved in the process—i.e., we should design with them instead of merely designing for them.
- In building age-friendly cities, a multidisciplinary approach is required to shape the built environment through architecture and implement transportation methods that address first and last mile needs, as these factors can have an immense effect on health.
- Instead of just being supported by the community, older persons can be active players. Empowering them with roles where they contribute to the society will in turn lead to intergenerational cohesion and social inclusion.
- Aging is a complex issue, so a whole of society effort and government intervention are needed if we are to produce transformative innovations that lead to healthy longevity.
AKIO OKAWARA, President and CEO, Japan Center for International Exchange (JCIE)
KEIZO TAKEMI, Member, House of Councillors, Senior Fellow, JCIE
HIROSHI MINAMI, Deputy Director General, Office of Healthcare Policy, Cabinet Secretariat, Government of Japan
ALANA OFFICER, Unit Head, Demographic Change and Healthy Ageing, World Health Organization (WHO)
JOHN EU-LI WONG, Isabel Chan Professor in Medical Sciences, Senior Vice President, Health Innovation and Translation, The National University of Singapore [Presentation]
Panel 1: Translating data and innovation to policy and practice
Cosponsored by the Okinawa Institute for Science and Technology (OIST) Foundation
Experts and private sector representatives will discuss how technology can be translated and transferred into meaningful products and services to promote healthy aging.
TENGKU AIZAN HAMID, Professor in Gerontology and Social Policy, Universiti Putra Malaysia, Research Fellow, Malaysian Research Institute on Ageing (MyAgeing)
PRASERT ASSANTACHAI, Professor of Geriatric Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, Siriraj Hospital, Mahidol University, Thailand; President, Thai Society of Gerontology and Geriatric Medicine; Former Chairman, Asia/Oceania International Association of Gerontology and Geriatrics (IAGG) [Presentation]
HIROYUKI FUJITA, Founder and CEO, Quality Electrodynamics; Chief Technology Officer, CT-MR Division, Canon Medical Systems Corporation; Member of OIST Board of Governors
ASHISH NARAYAN, Programme Officer, International Telecommunication Union (ITU) Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific [Presentation]
Panel 2: Designing age-friendly cities facilitating mobility and social inclusion
An age-friendly city should be designed for diversity, inclusion, and cohesion, addressing the needs of all ages and capacities. This session will bring together planners and practitioners to discuss the importance of designing age-friendly cities that enable people to stay active and connected and foster solidarity among generations.
MOMOKO ABE, Program Officer, JCIE
CHONG KENG HUA, Associate Professor, Singapore University of Technology and Design [Presentation]
KATSUNORI KONDO, Professor of Social Epidemiology and Health Policy, Center for Preventive Medical Sciences, Graduate School of Medicine at Chiba University [Presentation]
JOHN EU-LI WONG
Award Ceremony for the 2022 Healthy Aging Prize for Asian Innovation (HAPI)
Immediately following the AHWIN Forum, the winners of the 2022 Healthy Aging Prize for Asian Innovation (HAPI) were recognized at a special award ceremony. Rapid population aging requires creative approaches from both the public and private sectors. Launched in 2020, the Healthy Aging Prize for Asian Innovation (HAPI) seeks to recognize and amplify innovative policies, programs, services, and products that address the challenges facing aging societies, help extend healthy and meaningful lives, and improve the provision of care to older adults. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, 2022 marked our first opportunity to celebrate our award winners together in person and to introduce leading innovations from around the region.