Science has allowed people to live longer. Now, new developments seek to help people age healthily.
For the first time in history, the world population has a life expectancy equal to or greater than 60 years. WHO estimates that by 2050, the world population in this age group is expected to reach 2 billion, an increase of 900 million from 2015. Today, there are 125 million people aged 80 and over. By 2050, there will be an almost equal number of people in this age group (120 million) in China alone and 434 million worldwide. By 2050, 80 percent of all seniors will live in low and middle-income countries. The largest increase (312 million people) is projected to occur in Eastern and South-Eastern Asia, growing from 261 million in 2019 to 573 million people aged 65 years or over in 2050.
In Mexico, there are about 13 million people over 65 years old, 54 percent of them are women and 46 percent men. Around 58.8 percent of this sector of the population has some disability or limitations, with an affiliation to health services of 81.1 percent.
There are many health implications to longevity. In Mexico, those who turn 60 today can expect to live 22 more years but will probably spend the last five years of their life with a disability. Aging is the number one risk factor for many serious diseases such as cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and diabetes, according to AMIIF. Since aging and disease stem from common mechanisms, scientists are working to delay disease by slowing down the aging process.
According to a study by the Ministry of Health, only four out of 10 men and three out of 10 older women are in good or very good health. This is a global trend that inspired the term “healthy aging,” which according to WHO refers to the process of developing and maintaining functional capacity to do what each person considers valuable for as long as possible.
The Fist Latin American Summit for Longevity took place this month. Hosted by AMIIF, the summit highlighted numerous advances on healthy aging, such as a Oisín Biotechnologies study that measured bone density and explored how the cells involved in the development of osteoporosis can be eliminated. Oisín Biotechnologies is also developing a protein that is injected into mice to treat cancerous tumors. Unlike other treatments such as chemotherapy, where healthy cells can be damaged, this protein is designed to attack only diseased cells. Intervene Immune is also developing a treatment to rejuvenate the thymus and improve prostate health.
The Mexican Ministry of Health is also trying to address the lack of geriatric specialists in the country. UNAM has proposed to combat this is through the "geriatrization" of general practitioners, which involved the incorporation of a 280-hour-long specialized course in geriatrics, so all graduates know how to better treat seniors. However, there is still no integral and well-defined solution to this problem.