Aegon Co-launches the Global Coalition on Aging

February 16, 2011

Aegon and nine other major corporations have launched the Global Coalition on Aging to spur awareness about aging, and to work with policy makers on the subject.

A major aim of the coalition is to transform the way we think and speak about aging: replacing the familiar rhetoric of “problems” with a more positive discussion of “possibilities” and “opportunities.”

“We believe that the questions that have been asked about aging are the wrong ones,” says Marc van Weede, Aegon’s Executive Vice President and Global Head of Sustainability. “Society has been so focused on costs, on how to afford aging. But we believe that there are other crucial questions to be answered: ‘How can we use and transfer knowledge?’ ‘Can we enhance the workforce?’ ‘What are the best ways to achieve healthy aging?’

“Our philosophy is a new one: we believe that the best thing for older people and for society as a whole is for people to remain involved as they age … to age productively, not just gracefully.”

Composition and rationale

The ten companies founding the Coalition are spread across sectors and the globe.

Several are financial institutions who share a stake in the economic consequences of an aging population. Others may have initially approached the issue from a health care perspective.

But the coalition’s concerns are greater than the fiscal and health issues. Subjects that the Coalition will reflect on include education, technology, innovation and productivity.

Over the next three years, the Coalition will develop a strategic plan in these and other areas. The plan will be shared with governments and other stakeholders and should serve as a blueprint for social and policy change.

Enormous demographic shift

The changes will be needed quickly. In the next two decades, 450 million baby boomers will turn 65. And because their life expectancy exceeds that of their parents, the consequences will be felt for decades to come.

The trend is particularly pronounced in developed countries: in the US, for example, one in every five people will be over 65 by 2050. That compares to just under one in eight today.

But the US is not atypical. By mid-century, the elderly will outnumber children across the globe, for the first time in history.

“These are enormous demographic shifts,” Mr. van Weede says. “If we really want to think sustainably – as a company and as a society – this is one of the most pressing issues we need to address and one of the biggest opportunities that we should capture.”