Understanding the science of longer life

Societies across the world are living longer. Delegates at ‘The future of human longevity: breaking the code’ conference asked what was driving this improvement – and what we should expect in coming decades.

Living longer is something to be celebrated. Over the past five decades life expectancy at birth in Europe has risen by around ten years. But it also brings challenges. Societies must adapt to becoming older, not least to cover increased health and pension costs.

Insurers, pension providers and policymakers gathered with medical and health experts at the Swiss Re Centre for Global Dialogue, in November 2011, for ‘The future of human longevity: breaking the code’. Discussion was focused on the drivers of current longevity trends and how societies can manage the shift towards a more elderly population.

Bringing together expertise

The event brought together 30 speakers and expert delegates from a wide variety of fields related to longevity. Prominent speakers included Professor Michel Coleman, discussing international survival rates from cancer; Professor Tom Kirkwood on the links between disease and ageing; Professor Jay Olshansky on establishing the upper boundaries of longevity; and Ilona Kickbusch considering the public health challenges of an ageing population.

"Ageing at its core is driven by random molecular damage...It is an intrinsic process subject to the interaction we have with the environment and with the lifestyle choices we make," said Tom Kirkwood, Professor of Medicine and Director of the Institute for Ageing and Health, University of Newcastle.

Complementing this external expertise were Swiss Re specialists from across Life & Health Products. They presented sessions on the links between longevity and oncology; cardiology; genetics; HIV; actuarial and demographic approaches to ageing; public health initiatives; finance and pensions; and health economics.

A positive outcome

Daniel Ryan, Swiss Re’s Head of Research & Development for Life & Health and chair of the event, stated: “I am delighted by the calibre of speaker and the quality of debate we had at the event. It demonstrates Swiss Re’s commitment to better understand longevity and use that knowledge in a commercial context.”

For further information about the issues to consider regarding future longevity trends, please see “A window into the future: Understanding and predicting longevity”.

Published 10 November 2011

Image: Forum participants at the Centre for Global Dialogue/David Ausserhofer

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