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Forthcoming: Healthy Ageing Trends in England Between 2002 to 2018: Improving but Slowing and Unequal

Growing life expectancy and a rising proportion of older people make the issue of whether cohorts are ageing better a key individual, social and economic issue. Using data from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing we characterise how frailty develops with age, how this differs across demographic groups, whether more recent cohorts are ageing better and what the key areas of focus for health policy should be. We find cohort effects such that frailty at each age has been decreasing over time but that this trend shows mod- est signs of slowing and is less pronounced for those with lower wealth. Improvements across cohorts reflect improvements in ADLs, cognitive function, and mobility but limited progress in reducing the incidence of diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, etc. We find mobility and ADLs the main driver of average differences across regions but cross- regional differences are driven more by within than between group inequality.

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Journal of the Economics of Ageing – The economics of longevity: An introduction

Global life expectancy now stands at 71 years compared with 30 years in 1870. This fact increases the need to understand how we age and how that impacts our economic decision making. It also raises the issue of how we should change our life cycle behaviours, policies and institutions to adapt to these longer lives. The combination of these two factors leads to a very different focus from the traditional interest of an ageing society and its focus on changes in the age distribution of society. 

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Journal of Economics of Ageing: Special Issue of The Economics of Longevity

Global life expectancy now stands at 71 years compared with 30 years in 1870. This fact increases the need to understand how we age and how that impacts our economic decision making. It also raises the issue of how we should change our life cycle behaviours, policies and institutions to adapt to these longer lives. The combination of these two factors leads to a very different focus from the traditional interest of an ageing society and its focus on changes in the age distribution of society. It emphasises the need to understand a longevity society and changes in how we age. Given the importance of intertemporal decision making and the life cycle model in economics the implications of longevity for economic research offers rich pickings across a range of areas covering health, human capital, employment, financial decisions and macroeconomics. Understanding the changes in how we age in response to longer lives and identifying the channels to ensure that longer lives are welfare enhancing should be a fruitful and important area for research.

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Journal of the Economics of Ageing: The Rise of Age-Friendly Jobs

In 1990, one in five U.S. workers were aged over 50 years whereas today it is one in three. One possible explanation for this is that occupations have become more accommodating to the preferences of older workers. We explore this by constructing an “age-friendliness” index for occupations. We use Natural Language Processing to measure the degree of overlap between textual descriptions of occupations and characteristics which define age- friendliness. Our index provides an approximation to rankings produced by survey participants and has predictive power for the occupational share of older workers. We find that between 1990 and 2020 around three quarters of occupations have seen their age-friendliness increase and employment in above-average age-friendly occupations has risen by 49 million. However, older workers have not benefited disproportionately from this rise, with substantial gains going to younger females and college graduates and with male non-college educated workers losing out the most. These findings point to the need to frame the rise of age-friendly jobs in the context of other labour market trends and imperfections. Purely age-based policies are insufficient given both heterogeneity amongst older workers as well as similarities between groups of older and younger workers. The latter is especially apparent in the overlapping appeal of specific occupational characteristics.

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The Lancet Healthy Longevity: The Longevity Society

As the demographic transition enters a new stage of a longevity transition, focus needs to extend beyond an ageing society towards a longevity society. An ageing society focuses on changes in the age structure of the population, whereas a longevity society seeks to exploit the advantages of longer lives through changes in how we age. Achieving a longevity society requires substantial changes in the life course and social norms, and involves an epidemiological transition towards a focus on delaying the negative effects of ageing. The broad changes required to achieve healthy longevity include an increased focus on healthy life expectancy, a shift from intervention towards preventive health, a major public health agenda to avoid increases in health inequality, the establishment of longevity councils to ensure coordinated policy across government departments, and intergenerational assessment of policies, to ensure that in adapting to longer lives, policies are not skewed towards older people. A longevity society represents a new stage for humanity and requires deep-seated notions about age and ageing to be challenged if society is to make the best use of the additional time that longevity brings.

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The Lancet Healthy Longevity: The Longevity Economy

The fact that people are on average living healthier, longer lives than previously has the potential to be positive for the economy, offsetting the negative economic effects of an ageing society. A longevity economy will see a shift in the mix of sectors in the economy, with both health and education expanding further and new financial products arising. Such an economy has the potential to contribute to growth in gross domestic product through employment and human capital. Shifting to a longevity economy requires less reliance on policies stated purely in terms of age, and more extension of existing policies aimed at diverse needs and circumstances to older age groups. This shift will be needed to counter inequality within age groups. A life course perspective is also required, to ensure a focus on intergenerational equity and a better understanding of the needs of older individuals that are not health driven.

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Lancet Healthy Longevity: A timely call to establish an international convention on the rights of older people

Global pandemics inevitably reveal many vulnerabilities in national and global health systems, as well as society more broadly. The COVID-19 pandemic has amplified the importance of public health, the value of therapeutic medicine, and the power of vaccines. The pandemic has also made apparent stark inequities in access to testing, treatment, and vaccines.

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Working Life: Labour supply, ageing and longevity

The labour supply of older workers is set to be a key policy issue in the years ahead. An ageing society is leading to an increasing number of older people and longevity to longer lives and changes in the life course. Both forces are leading to increased labour market participation at older ages. As retirement age extends in response to increases in life expectancy it is becoming less of a discrete event and more variable in its timing across a diverse age group. That implies that understanding labour supply at older ages increasingly requires a focus on the intensive margin and hours worked as well as the characteristics of a job. As tax and benefit schemes are changed to reduce incentives to retire and as health at older ages improves an issue emerges as to what makes older workers distinctive. The consequence is to either subsume older workers in more general theories of labour supply or develop a richer understanding of ageing and its impact on preferences.

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Nature Aging: The economic value of targeting aging

This paper ultimately does two things. Firstly, it places an economic value on the gains to various combinations of improving health, increasing life expectancy and delaying aging. Secondly, it tries to capture the dynamics of how the relationship between these gains will evolve in the future.

Read the full paper in Nature Aging here.

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Nature Aging: Achieving a three-dimensional longevity dividend

There is a lot of focus on an ageing society as a result of falling birth rates and longer lives. But this demographic transition is increasingly becoming a longevity transition with the majority of life expectancy gains in high income countries now coming in later years. Past improvements in health and life expectancy have been good for the economy and we need the same to happen with this longevity transition. That requires achieving a three dimensional longevity dividend whereby healthy life expectancy rises to match life expectancy and productive ability helps support longer careers needed to finance longer lives. The background to this longevity transition and what is needed to achieve a three dimensional longevity dividend are the subject of the paper just published in Nature Aging.

Click here to view the paper in Nature Aging.