GDI-Study No. 44 / 2015
On the Road to an Ageless Society
Authors: Jakub Samochowiec, Martina Kühne, Karin Frick
Commissioned by: Swiss Life
Science defines ageing as the transition from the growth of human faculties to their preservation. Yet this definition is currently being challenged. First, extremely healthy and active baby boomers are redefining what it means to be retired. Second, Silicon Valley is investing in technology aimed at delaying biological ageing – or eliminating it altogether.
The study Digital Ageing: Unterwegs in die alterslose Gesellschaft (only available in German), commissioned by Swiss Life, examines how the pensioners of tomorrow will go about their lives.
The study explores potential models of ageing for the future in terms of two factors: whether people are more concerned with preserving or expanding their faculties – and how eager they will be to embrace new technologies. Four scenarios emerge:
- Conservative ageing: The traditionalists. They want to preserve their faculties without the help of new technology. They become old and inflexible, and are rarely open to any innovation, but take on important social duties such as caring for grandchildren.
- Rebel ageing: The go-getters. They use new technology to enhance their experience in the analogue world. They invest their energies in enterprising and charitable activities.
- Predictive ageing: The preservers. They use technology for their health and identify genetic predispositions for predictions and recommendations. Their focus on physical wellbeing, however, means that they express less solidarity with people who have less healthy lifestyles.
- Ageless ageing: The progressives. They hope that technology will overcome biological limits, such as disease or death. Ageless ageing will bring with it new challenges: for the individual, the search for meaning in an eternal life; for society, addressing the limits of growth.
One thing is certain: the traditional boundaries of ageing are fading. ‘Digital ageing’ highlights potential new ideas and identifies their implications for business and for society.