Life Year

Count on making a wish

Perspective by:
Research Squad
Moxi Ventures

Aging becomes all the buzz

We’re all getting older. Much as we’d like to forget it, time’s arrow only flies one way. And what’s true in our personal lives is true in our populations too. With healthcare improving and birth rates falling around the planet, the world is set for an ever-greater proportion of older people. In fact, the global population of over 60s is expected to more than double by 2050 – and more than triple by 2100.[1]

TheUS is witnessing its slowest birth rate since the 1930s.[2] And Japan’s population fell by a million people between 2010 and 2016. It’s just one of the 48 countries the UN thinks will see population decline by 2050.[3] These shifts will have profound effects on our societies. From health to pensions to employment, many countries are facing a dangerous buildup of financial and political pressure.

Healthcare, above all, needs to adapt. As we age, we’ll expect our healthcare to mature with us. Especially when it comes to living at home rather than in nursing institutions. As many as 92 percent of Americans say they prefer the former, for example. And that’s set to have a big impact on societies which lack the public infrastructure to meet these needs. Technology, such as the software from New York startup Hometeam that connects care givers with elderly clients, will need to step in to fill the gap.[4]

Demographic changes are having other, more surprising, impacts. In emerging economies, lifestyle diseases are now overtaking communicable diseases as the leading causes of death. So heart and respiratory problems and cancer are now bigger killers than tuberculosis in India, for example.[5]

What this tells us is clear: if we want life to keep getting better with age, we’ll need our healthcare systems to smooth out the wrinkles in delivering care.

The golden years

We’re all living longer. Global life expectancy is projected to grow to 76.2 years by 2050.[6] How much further can it go? With today’s breakneck advances in genome sequencing, we’re about to find out. Human Longevity is a company applying machine learning to fight diseases associated with aging. By sequencing the entire human genome, rather than selecting for specific genes or traits, the company’s platform is able to develop deeper insights into human health.[7]

But will those extra years be happy ones? If technology can help seniors feel 50 years younger, then why not? And it’s hard to think of a more tangible impact of getting old than age-related sight loss. So, technologies like PowerVision’s intra-ocular lens will be vital in maintaining that critical visual connection to the world. The lens contains a small amount of fluid that adjusts to the eye’s natural movements and restores true accommodation.[8]

People will still get sick, of course. But here, too, technology is changing the script. A digital drug from Japan’s Otsuka Pharmaceutical has recently been approved for use. The pill, an antipsychotic, contains a tiny chip which activates once inside the gut. It can then communicate with digital devices and be used to monitor treatment adherence.[9]

Loneliness, too, can plague later years. ElliQ, the emotionally intelligent robot from the Fuse Project, is capable of providing companionship for otherwise lonely seniors. ElliQ offers verbal medication reminders and activity suggestions – and enables families to stay in contact through a video interface.[10]

But let’s not forget that staying healthy means feeling healthy – outside and in. And technology will help us stay looking youthful into older age. Skin-care products are evolving to battle not just UV rays and environmental pollution, but even the blue light from our laptop and smartphone screens.[11] And companies like Crushed Tonics are offering anti-aging elixirs combining collagen, probiotics, and proteins, to improve skin and hair health.[12]

 

Focus will be the start and end of life

The impact of digital technology will be felt right across the human lifespan. The assisted reproductive technology market, for example, is set for rapid growth – expected to hit $31.4 billion globally by 2023.[13] We see this shift in startups like Modern Fertility, who offer powerful personalized fertility insights through a home test – at a fraction of the cost of top clinics.[14]

In fact, home fertility testing is just one of a host of innovations, everything from Ava’s real-time wearable fertility monitor[15] to Naya Health’s connected breast pump[16] to Owlet’s smart baby sock,[17] which are giving new life to fertility and early-years care.

Every parent knows how all-consuming a new baby can be. But the other end of a lifetime can be just as disruptive. Family life sometimes must be put on hold to care for a dying relative. Companies like After are now offering software that helps patients and families overcome some of these challenges, by understanding a disease’s likely progression, as well as organizing legal documents and coordinating care requests.[18]

Likewise, Ciitizen is a startup founded by a former executive from Apple’s health technology division. The company plans to help the terminally ill with “health data as a palliative” by giving them better access to their health information, on everything from genomes, to ethical wills, to advanced directions, and sharing it with researchers on request.[19]

[1] UN DESA, “World Population Prospects: The 2017 Revision;” posted June 21, 2017 at https://www.un.org/development/desa/publications/world-population-prospects-the-2017-revision.html

[2] USA Today, “Americans aren't having as many kids: 8 states post population loss;” posted December 21, 2016 at http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2016/12/21/utah-fastest-growing-state-west-bucks-sluggish-trend/95694042/

[3] The Washington Post; “It’s official: Japan’s population is dramatically shrinking;” posted February 26, 2016 at https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2016/02/26/its-official-japans-population-is-drastically-shrinking/?utm_term=.3216a8abf8a2

[4] Forbes; “A Startup Poised to Disrupt In-Home Senior Care;” posted September 25, 2015 at https://www.forbes.com/sites/robertglatter/2015/09/25/a-start-up-poised-to-disrupt-in-home-senior-care/#2ebfa9276536

[5] Times Now; “Kerala, Goa, Tamil Nadu lead as lifestyle diseases become top killers in India;” posted November 15, 2017 at http://www.timesnownews.com/health/article/kerala-goa-tamil-nadu-lead-as-lifestyle-diseases-become-top-killers-in-india/125860

[6] National Institute on Aging and the United States Census Bureau; “An Aging World: 2015” issued March 2016 and found online at http://www.census.gov/content/dam/Census/library/publications/2016/demo/p95-16-1.pdf

[7] CB Insights; “Forever Young: 10 Anti-Aging Startups to Watch;” posted May 2, 2017 at https://www.cbinsights.com/research/anti-aging-startups-to-watch/

[8] C B Insights; “Forever Young: 10 Anti-Aging Startups to Watch;” posted May 2, 2017 at https://www.cbinsights.com/company/powervision

[9] Wall Street Journal; “Digital Pills That Talk to Your Doctor Are Here;” posted November 13, 2017 at https://www.wsj.com/articles/fda-approves-worlds-first-digital-drug-1510621146

[10] TechCrunch; “Intuition Robotics raised $6 million for its ElliQ elder care assistant robot;” posted February 14, 2017 at https://techcrunch.com/2017/02/14/intuition-robotics-6m/

[11] Well and Good; “The 2018 Trends That Have Wellness Insiders Buzzing the Most;” posted December 4, 2017 at https://www.wellandgood.com/good-advice/buzzy-wellness-trends-sneak-peek/slide/6/

[12] Well and Good; “This New Multitasking Powder Adds Collagen and Probiotics to Your Daily Matcha;” posted August 29, 2017 at https://www.wellandgood.com/good-food/crushed-tonic-collagen-probiotic-powder/

[13] MobiHealthNews; “In-Depth: Digital health innovation in fertility and women's health – not so niche anymore;” posted December 22, 2016 at http://www.mobihealthnews.com/content/depth-digital-health-innovation-fertility-and-womens-health-%E2%80%93-not-so-niche-anymore

[14] TechCrunch; “Modern Fertility is offering a comprehensive fertility test for women who hope to be moms someday;” posted August 9, 2017 at https://techcrunch.com/2017/08/09/modern-fertility-is-offering-a-comprehensive-fertility-test-for-women-who-hope-to-be-moms-someday/

[15] https://www.avawomen.com/

[16] https://nayahealth.com/

[17] https://owletcare.com/

[18] Chicago Inno; “This Startup Wants to Make End-of-Life Care Easier and More Compassionate;” posted June 27, 2017 at https://www.americaninno.com/chicago/entrepreneur-aims-to-make-end-of-life-care-more-compassionate/

[19] CNBC; “Apple's health boss leaves for new start-up, fulfilling a promise he made to his sick sister;” posted December 7, 2017 at https://www.cnbc.com/2017/12/07/apple-health-director-anil-sethi-leaves-to-build-cancer-start-up.html?utm_content=bufferb8050&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer

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