The Ageing problem is not simply an Ageing problem. It’s MY problem. Because in 2050 when the silver tsunami hits, I’ll be one of those old women.
Ageing is a problem for countries mainly because of 2 issues
1. Exponentially increasing health care costs ( relative to the average person’s entire lifetime)
2. Inability to be economically active
Below are some of my thoughts off the top of my head. I’m raising it here, not to convince everyone or to campaign for certain things, but more to iron out some of these ideas — are they valid? are they useful? These 2 issues are also NOT comprehensively explored here …. just exploring a different angle.
1. Exponentially increasing health care costs
Medical technologies/treatments are increasingly advanced and costly.
No medical tech/treatment in this world can guarantee you a cure — it’s all about chances of survival.
Eg. Drug A — 20% of patients survive
Drug B — 40% of patients survive
Drug C — 80% of patients survive
No Drugs — 5% of patients survive
When you go on a certain drug, you pay a certain financial cost for the drug, and you enter a system where you have a certain chance of survival
It’s a lottery.
You choose which lottery you want to play, based on the cost, and the chance of your survival.
And bear in mind, the cost doesn’t correlate with the chance of survival.
As a society deciding which lottery costs should be borne by all ( through State subsidies using taxpayer money), we need to decide on the criteria for distributing health subsidies (eg. deciding whether to give more resources to the young or the old? ) It’s not enough that we agree on a set of criteria or values. The ORDER of PRIORITISATION of this common set of values will also significantly change the distribution pattern.
Some criteria I”m thinking of, off the top of my head, in no order of prioritisation (because everyone has a different order anyway)
- absolute cost of the treatment required
- cost effectiveness of the treatment
- age of the person
- economic value of the person
- life expectency of the person
- popularity of the person
- financial health of the person (ie how much can the person afford on his own)
- amount of suffering caused by the illness
- amount of happiness gained without this illness
- political power of the person
- past contributions of the person
- future contributions of the person
- effectiveness of the treatment
- responsibility the person has in acquiring his illness
etc (will add on, with your suggestions, and with more thought into this)
Just to do a little social experiment here:
How much agreement is there amongst the general population, on how we want to prioritise these distribution criteria??
If you would be so kind, do leave YOUR order of prioritsation here in the Comments, and we can take a look. If there are too many criteria, just list the top 5 or top 10.
2. Inability to be economically active
If we assume that, on average, the current ratio of the econ active : inactive is 10: 1 , across all the economically significant nations , and if we assume projections that this ratio will drop to 2:1 by 2050, what would the impact be? That sounds like a 30% unemployment rate to me.
Think about the assets you currently hold. Your property. Your insurance policies. Your stocks etc. What would the value of these assets be if there is 30% unemployment?
Think of your savings. Your salary, your taxes. What happens when there is 30% unemployment?
Am I unduly worried? Is this a valid concern?
Unlike big potential crisises eg. energy shortage crisis, global warming etc, I’ve yet to hear a decent proposal for addressing the Ageing population from anyone. Enforcing the “parents’ maintainance act” is not addressing the problem — it’s re-distributing the problem.
The issue about the state of medical advancement is this: currently we can effectively treat / cure /replace every single body part, except the brain. The reason why we have this Ageing population at all is because we are getting more physically healthier people way into old age. But the mind ages, and degenerates, before the body does. In a knowlege based economy, that’s big trouble.
What we really need is to reduce the number of years between the time people retire from economic activity and death.
Several ways to achieve that:
1. Improve mental cognition of the elderly — this is difficult, we can only place our hope in the neuro scientists out there.
2. Create dignified means of economic viability that do not depend on the mental cognition of the elderly
3. This one will raise the most protests. I’ll just qoute a friend here to illustrate my point :
“i had a friend in college, Pat, who smoked and gave out that i did exercise too much. I said to him, it’s extending my life and those cigarettes are taking years off yours. He said Yeah, but they are the years where i wont be able to poop without help!”