Long-term care, short-term challenges?

On October 26, 2016, Risk Management teams and the AXA Research Fund hosted a conference on “Long Term Care… Short Term Challenges”, bringing research workers and subject experts together to explore longevity and how to assist dependent older people. ALL ARTICLES  |  Research & Foresight
Dec 14, 2016

The topic of human life expectancy is the subject of debate among experts and researchers around the world. For AXA, the question is not (only) to know whether humans can live to the age of 115 or 120, but to address the challenges that are already being posed by aging populations.

Yes, we are living longer, but what is our quality of life in old age? How can the issue of providing long-term healthcare be resolved? How can future needs for long-term care be anticipated? Will future medical technologies be better at treating age-related illnesses?

The need to “speak the same language”

Before we can effectively address the issue, the meaning of “long-term care” needs to be defined. Long-term care is a product of people living longer lives, and it responds to the loss of independence of older people and their need for assistance to perform daily activities.

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Each country uses its own set of criteria to evaluate a person’s loss of independence, which can be partial or total. Professor Tom Kirkwood from Newcastle University is proposing to standardize these assessment systems using a hybrid, scalable model that factors in short-, medium- and long-term risks and contextual variables such as inflation.

Understanding the issue of cognitive impairment is also crucial. How can we address a situation where cases of cognitive impairment may be on the rise? To answer this question, we need to research global trends related to cognitive impairment. Carol Jagger, head of the AXA Chair on longevity and a professor at Newcastle University, shows that the number of cognitive impairments worldwide is declining, due to the adoption of healthier lifestyles and higher levels of wealth, education and healthcare. However, these trends will not necessarily continue into the future, so there is a need to develop innovative predictive models to assess these risks.

Is prevention the best medicine?

Many new technologies provide day-to-day assistance to dependent people. Robotics and smart homes can facilitate their daily lives. Other applications can assess a dependent person’s health remotely and adjust the treatment they are receiving.

However, it would be preferable to think about prevention strategies in addressing the issue of long-term care. New technologies, especially smartphone apps, are a particularly useful tool for encouraging people to adopt healthier lifestyles.

AXA’s challenge is therefore to improve its products and develop new services to prevent or delay its customers’ future needs for long-term care. AXA will also continue supporting research to better anticipate challenges and new trends: learn more about the work of researchers supported by the AXA Research Fund here.

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