News: News Archives
Meeting Considers Role for Science, Technology,
to Address Rapid Increase in Aging Population
The U.S. Bureau of the Census estimates that by the year 2025, the number of people over the age of 65 will double worldwideleading policymakers to view the projected impact of this aging population with increasing concern. In the United States alone, population analysts expect that there will be about 70 million people age 65 and over by the year 2030, more than twice as many as in the year 2000. By the middle of the next century, the developed countries of Europe, Asia and North America may have more grandparents than children.
In a continuing effort to consider a role for science and technology in addressing pressing social concerns, AAAS and the Danish Presidency of the European Union co-sponsored a meeting on Friday, 25 October, that considered current research and development investments in technologies for the aging. The meeting brought together leading European Union delegates and U.S. officials to identify current and prospective solutions to this dramatic shift in demographics.
"In a world transformed by rapidly changing technologies, and by enormous growth in population and consumption levels, science and technology are being asked to play a crucial role in addressing the social and economic ills that affect hundreds of millions of people," said Elizabeth Kirk, of the AAAS International Office. "Collaborations such as this meeting with US and European officials can further efforts to find solutionsin this case, to begin to work internationally to address the phenomenon of a rapidly growing population of aging people."
The meeting, whose proceedings will be published in an upcoming report, covered a broad range of topics that ranged from the use of walkers and wheelchairs to the development of artificial retinas and implementation of high-speed computers.
"Much lies ahead. We consider this [meeting] the first step in enhancing existing and establishing new collaboration between the European Union and the U.S. on this issue," said Jeannette Nielsen, First Secretary (Science and Technology), Royal Danish Embassy. "The purpose of the meeting was to raise awareness, and foster an interest and involvement at the European level and national level. The next step is that we must take action."
Part of ensuring an acceptable quality of life and maintaining a stable health care system will depend on technologies that allow older people to live independently as long as possible. Some of the technologies discussed at the meeting included the more complex rapid-response systems in people's homes as well as a simplified, larger TV remote, complete with larger numbers to help aging individuals with poor vision.
"I think there is no doubt that research and development contribute," Nielsen said. "If we look at the Western world, for example, people are living longer. The next step is to make sure we do our best to make it a high quality life."
She added that this is not just a Western problem, noting increasing aging populations in Asian countries such as Japan, where one out of every ten people is expected to be 85 by the year 2030.
Medical research is also vital to assisting the health of older people. Michael Weinrich, Director, National Center on Medical Rehabilitation Research, National Institutes of Health, added that a lot of work needs to be done to understand the biology of aging. He noted the higher incidence of chronic diseases with age, and described current research underway to investigate their treatment or cure.
1 November 2002