By the year 2050, one in four Europeans will be aged 65 or over, which presents a number of challenges and possible opportunities for Europe’s rapidly aging society. To this end, the European Commission published the “Green paper on ageing – Fostering solidarity and responsibility between generations” back in January to encourage a broad policy debate on the topic.
As part of this initiative, the EU opened the topic up for public consultation and further discussion. You can find this green paper below or at the original source here.
The silver tsunami is coming, and we are not ready
Unfortunately, like many other similar initiatives in the past, this green paper makes no mention of the potential of therapies that seek to target the aging processes directly. In general, world governments still remain largely oblivious of the role of medical research in the future of aging and how interventions might slow or even reverse it.
This is a real problem, because not only do green papers like this one cost considerable amounts of money to produce, they also contribute towards shaping future societal views and strategies regarding aging.
An aging population is going to become an increasing problem as we approach 2050, especially with many countries seeing a large decline of fertility and some even entering negative population growth. Some countries could soon face a situation where there are more older people than young and will struggle to cope with the burden on the healthcare and economic systems that this will bring. This is sometimes called the silver tsunami.
The growing number of old people relative to the overall population will put increasing pressure on pensions, socialized healthcare systems, and other entitlement systems. If something is not done to solve this problem, the situation will become unsustainable and socio-economic systems will be unable to cope in their current forms.
This is why it is absolutely critical that the inclusion and development of therapies to treat the causes of aging, to slow, delay, or even reverse aging must be part of that solution.
The green paper falls short of what needs to be done
We are not the only organization that considers this green paper to be inadequate, and biologist and bioinformatician Attila Csordas has responded to the call for discussion through his organization, the European Longevity Initiative (ELI). The ELI has published a response to the green paper entitled “EU Green Paper on Ageing is an attractive wish list, but the European Longevity Initiative is proposing the foundation”. You can find a copy of this response below or at the source here.
This green paper is another disappointing example of just how much work our field has ahead of it in order to gain a place at the table in such discussions, as it makes the same mistakes as the WHO 2015 World Report on Aging and Health and the Decade of Healthy Aging initiative. The focus is on compensating for the consequences of aging rather than addressing the problem by developing rejuvenation biotechnology. We have a lot of work to do before things start changing on the level of international policy.