From Adding Years to Life to Adding Life to Years

May 23, 2020

Medical practice and advances in the development of medicines have greatly improved life expectancy in the last 100 years.  In the UK life expectancy is around 81 years which is up by 10 years since 1960.  This sounds great, but there’s a problem as this additional life is often lived with a low quality of life due to a large number of comorbidity that older people often have.  We need to address this as innovators and move from ADDING YEARS TO LIFE to ADDING LIFE TO YEARS.

Medicine and pharmaceuticals generally focus on helping people when they’re ill, dealing with symptoms and fixing health issues.  It may be a good idea to focus some of this resource, education and expertise on solutions that are preventative and help people stay fit and healthy.  This opens up a much wider range of solutions and shows our health is actually affected a multitude of factors, our genes, where we live, what job we have, our diet, our hobbies, our country of birth, etc., and suggest that medics and pharmaceutical companies should be understanding this confluence of factors, and working with partners in these aspects that make up the components of our health.

If we think of our health as a continuum of how we live our lives, exercise we take, stress we’re exposed to, the diet we have, our occupation, travel done, medicines we take and health services we interact with, we can start to look at the whole ecosystems and design products and services to improve health outcomes.  Thinking differently we can start to look at the factors that affect health and innovate around them:

Physical activity is probably the number thing we can do to look after our health because it affects so many aspects of our health and wellbeing.  The more we do, the more we benefit, but even a relatively small amount of exercise can have a huge benefit to your health.  It’s really about doing more that you used to and finding a level that you can sustain.  The WHO recommends 150 minutes of activity a week or 75 minutes of vigorous activity, that's around 30 minutes a day.

Cognitive health is really important in terms of quality of life as we age, we want to live long but we dearly want to retain our mental faculties.  You can constantly challenge yourself with learning new things, doing puzzles, reading, new disciplines, debating, music and arts.  All of this can help us build neural connections and aim to protect ourselves from cognitive decline.

Loneliness and mental health fostering good relationships and maintaining them throughout life is central to our health.  We need social interaction to be healthy.  Families are often dislocated and our friends die off as we age, so we need to find new ways of feeling connected.

Each of these factors can be served by technology.  Physical activity can be encouraged and gamified with wearables and APPs, we can get cognitive workouts from brain training APPs or learn a new language online, and we can stay connected through technology more easily than ever before with ultrafast and mobile connectivity.  There are limitless opportunities to innovate in this space and provide new products and services to ADD YEARS TO LIFE.

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