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UIC Demographer Writes on Aging for World Economic Forum

Noted University of Illinois at Chicago biodemographer S. Jay Olshansky is the author of two essays assembled by The World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on an Ageing Society to address the challenges and benefits of population aging.

Olshansky’s work is part of a book titled “Global Population Ageing: Peril or Promise?” released at the World Economic Forum meeting today in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland. The book consists of 22 essays divided into four themes: setting the stage for policy decisions on aging; investing in ourselves; pursuing healthy aging; and redesigning our environment. The central theme that emerges is the increasing need to adapt to population aging, identify and take advantage of the opportunities it offers and find ways to unlock the human capital resources that population aging and longer lives make possible.

“The book is designed to change the way the world looks at the aging of individuals and populations,” says Olshansky, who is professor of epidemiology in the UIC School of Public Health. “The traditional view is one of loss, decline, decay, and high cost. The new view is to look at aging as an opportunity.”

Olshansky’s first chapter is “The Elders,” about a small group of independent-minded elders brought together by Richard Branson, Peter Gabriel, Nelson Mandela, Graça Machel, Desmond Tutu and others to actively engage in society to resolve global issues at the highest levels. The group, as Olshansky shows, provides an example of leadership attributes common in older people that should be nurtured.

In the second chapter, “The Longevity Dividend: Health as an Investment,” Olshansky, John R. Beard and Axel Börsch-Supan advocate investing in health to live better, not just longer. “The economic value of a rapidly growing healthy older population is so large that healthy aging should be aggressively pursued, on its own merits, as a societal investment,” say the authors.

The Ageing Book is available online as a PDF.

Olshansky can be reached at sjayo@uic.edu or (847) 537-7278.

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