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Friday, February 3, 2023

NextGen Aging: Shaping a Smart Future for an Aging Society

“Through the advancement of medicine and innovative technology, people are gaining an extended life expectancy at the rate of five hours per day,” revealed Dr. Boon Vanasin, Founder and Chairman of Thonburi Healthcare Group PCL, at the international conference “NextGen Aging – Shaping a Smart Future for an Aging Society” which was held at The Dusit Thani Hotel, Bangkok, “The number of the elderly is rising rapidly and so are chronic conditions arising from NCDs, catastrophic health service burdens, and emotional instability impacting on their families.”

Dr. Boon strongly urges the state authorities to shift their policy focus from curing acute conditions and symptoms to building capacity in coping with comprehensive needs for primary healthcare services and prevention.

“The government is heavily in debts on account of acute healthcare services. Its inappropriate use should be reduced by diverting attention and budget to integrated care for older people,” said Dr. Boon.

“Medical step-down care is an ideal option to reduce healthcare expenditures. Length of hospital care can be reduced from 2.8 to 1.7 days and treatment costs from US$1,900 to US$250 per day,” added the renowned chairman.

“With age-related health conditions under proper medical control, healthy aging not only enables wellbeing in aged workforce but also employers to tap into their rich work and life experience beyond mandatory retirement age while compromising with progressively less pay.”

Dr. Boon also acknowledged that AI will play a big role in future medicine in healthy aging and wellness. “It’s reckoned that in the near future 60% of patients will be treated at home through telemedicine, connected at fingertips with health specialists, and AI can read and accurately interpret X-ray.”

Ms. Marcela Suazo, Country Director, UN Population Fund, stressed that aging in Asia is growing at an unprecedented rate – the ratio in 2015 at 5.5 people in the working age per one elder Asian dropping to 2.3 to 1 by 2050.

“Healthy aging should be choices not chances. Integrated health systems are to be transformed aggressively to ensure planned preventive outreach to begin from year zero at conception onward,” she explained.

“Life starts at pregnancy. That’s why we need to invest in the younger generations, enhance their skills, and boost the capacity of the overarching community spheres to learn better and more,” emphasized the director.

“Against a backdrop of a fast aging trend, we are facing new challenges never encountered before. Female population are living longer, adult children are migrating to locations offering better employment opportunities, leaving their seniors at home facing the prospects of major depressive disorders and delirium,” said Ms. Suazo.

She vouched for the older population to age actively with knowledge and energy well beyond 60 as the public begin to adopt an integrated approach to the aging process and well-defined life stage.

“Population aging is the most significant social transformation of the new century. The biggest success story of the 20th century is now the biggest challenge of the 21st century”, declared Dr. Noel P. Greis, Adjunct Professor, Kenan-Flagler Business School, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, “We must build and share a global response to aging: how to provide long-term-care systems to serve the needs of older populations, how to deal with declining fertility, and how to best contain age-related chronic conditions.”

“Aging is a key factor adversely affecting every economic aspect, triggering migration for greener pastures, forsaking their seniors to unknown destiny at home, putting undue stress and financial burdens on the shoulders of the government.”

Dr. Greis said medical technology will play a vital role in helping the public and private sectors to achieve the desired state of healthy aging in the future. “AI will become a silver bullet if we learn how to make our tools useful, affordable, and available to all.”

The panel concluded that aging society issues are affecting not only the seniors, but everyone in the society. Preparation for the epidemiologic transition is, therefore, the responsibility of all sectors – public, private, and social.

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