On 3 February Age UK hosted a symposium in London for the World Economic Forum Global Agenda Council on Ageing, on the impact of ageing and cognitive impairment on the financial services industry. Ninie Wang Yan, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Pinetree Care Group (China) and a panellist at the symposium, reflects on the day.
In the middle of a cozy tea break, I agreed with James Appleby from the Gerontological Society of America who will be hosting the 2017 World Congress of Gerontology and Geriatrics in San Francisco that there had been a crucial missing piece of our discussions in all those past congresses.
Before joining this event (namely the World Economic Forum Symposium on Managing ageing and cognitive impairment: challenges and opportunities for financial services that was hosted by Age UK), I was quite curious about the chemistry between the “cool” financial industry and the “warm” team of gerontologists / geriatricians. The combination of this event’s sponsors, Barclays and AARP, seems symbolic enough.
Turns out, there were an enormous amount of sparkles throughout this symposium. First there were the keynote speeches that provided academic and scientific food for thought. To begin with, just how much of our cognitive functions are “given”? A large Scottish cohort study (the Lothian Birth Cohort) answered, “Half.” And in determining the factors that we can manage to work on for a positive impact, taking away the confounding factors showed even more interesting results.
For example, social engagement is rather a result of better cognitive capabilities than the cause, while being multi-lingual could really help (now would you care for learning some Chinese?). From normal cognitive decline with ageing to dementia, our brain’s degenerative changes expose us to the risk of incapability of managing our own finances.
Then came the financial industry perspectives. Where there is a challenge, they would see the business opportunities behind, and it goes beyond creating age-friendly banking services.
Money may not be able to buy us health, but financial vehicles could help provide the right incentives and “bribe” people who are otherwise not threatened enough by the chronic effects of their habits to go for a critical lifestyle change.
On an individual level, aligning personal interest in long-term quality of life with financial incentives might solve the challenges of “delayed impact thus no immediate action”, on a societal or country level, policy makers can leverage the often overruling power of the financial industry to raise the adoption rate of healthy ageing activities among people and most importantly, early enough to reduce the need for intensive care in later stages of life.
In many ways I found the discussions focusing on issues that might differ from those back home in China. However, by sharing the experience or lack of experience internationally, we realized that everyone is a stakeholder who could learn from the others and at the same time contribute inspiring innovative solutions born out of different situations in our home country or domain.
As James put it nicely, here we discovered that a complete multidisciplinary team to care for our ageing population in need should not limit to healthcare professionals but instead, include financial planners, the seniors or patients themselves, and many other service providers.
Find out more about the event, including presentations, post-event information and the symposium report at www.ageuk.org.uk/global-ageing