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A healthier future for the aging generation

Is 70 the new 50? How do caretakers and society meet the new needs of our time when it comes to aging? Yesterday, academia and industry met at GoCo Arena to come closer to finding the answers. What the future of elderly care should look like, and that table tennis has a positive impact on both social interaction and Parkinson's disease, are some of the take aways from the day.

Moderator, Ingmar Skoog, Professor and Chief Physician of the Center for Aging and Health (AgeCap) at the University of Gothenburg, began the day by highlighting the importance of analyzing aging and looking at what it means when 70 has become the new 50. Ingmar Skoog himself is behind the often quoted “70 is the new 50” and has also been leading the research in the H70 studies, one of Sweden's largest population studies. In the studies, 70-year-olds born in different years, have been examined and followed continuously with the aim of mapping and studying the possibilities for preventive measures and prejudices around aging - both from an individual and societal perspective.

- Health has changed over time and today's generation of elderly is both physically and mentally stronger than previous generations. Today's 70-year-olds have a physical and intellectual capacity like a 50-year-old, 30 years ago. With this, we must also learn more about the elderly and ask ourselves what this should mean for elderly care providers - and whether they are prepared or not. Soon enough the punkrockers will move into the nursing homes, says Ingmar Skoog.

In today's Sweden, every fifth habitant is 65 years or older and the average life expectancy is over 80 years for both men and women. This means that an increasing part of the population already is getting older and the population itself has a greatly improved ability compared to previous generations. This shift comes with both challenges and opportunities to follow, says Ingmar Skoog.

- There are many aspects of aging to consider. To take advantage of the elderly's experience and knowledge is one and to adapt the care of the elderly and make it more meaningful is another. We need to start looking at elderly care in a new way and we need to realize that we need people of all ages in a workplace. The older we get, the more different we become, this also makes patient-centered care important, Ingmar Skoog continues.

AstraZeneca started the Health Works initiative with the intention of improving patient-centered care. An initiative where they use a broader approach to take health beyond medicines - from preventive examination, to diagnosis, treatment, and rehabilitation. Raising the patient's voice and understanding that every human being needs to be listened to from their perspective for future development, says Matti Ahlqvist, Executive Director Gothenburg Site, AstraZeneca.

- We need to think more about adaptation and be open for dialogue with the patient when we design solutions for the future. To listen, learn and understand each person from their point of view. To succeed in this, we must also work together. Both with the people whose health challenges we want to solve and by involving healthcare professionals as well as researchers and decision-makers - all based on the common goal of improving human health, says Matti Ahlqvist.

The day continued with interesting presentations from Norlandia, Wellspect HealthCare and Fujirebio Diagnostics that described their investments in elderly care, research, and development work on subjects such as the aging bladder and bowel as well as Alzheimer’s and cancer diagnostics. This was followed by Mia Ekdal, Head of Relations & Communications, AstraZeneca Health Works, who moderated a panel discussion to address how caregivers and industry can work together to find beneficial solutions and business models that work in real life.

Conny Mathiesen, Business Area Manager at Norlandia, also confirmed the need for increased individualized elderly care. Conny Mathiesen also pointed out the importance of a faster implementation, going from development to practice. Today, it can take up to 17 years before an innovation reaches 50% of the target group, a figure that speaks its own clear language.

The day was also visited by Anders Johansson, Head of movement disorder section department of Neurology at Karolinska University Hospital. Age is a risk factor in Parkinson's and several studies has shown that physical activity is beneficial to prevent illness. Anders Johansson produced the world's first pilot study of how table tennis can affect Parkinson's disease. The sport sets high demands on both fast movements, balance and being able to think tactically - factors that might make table tennis particularly favorable to prevent Parkinson's.

The Swedish Table Tennis Association was also represented in the crowd to highlight creativity and playfulness. To encourage movement, a ping pong table was set up during the lunchbreak, where former world champion and now national team captain for the men's national table tennis team, Jörgen Persson, stood for both entertainment and guest play-offs. Table tennis truly is a sport that unites and makes people come together. Something that also sums up the day: When people come together in new context, ideas take shape to find new solutions for tomorrow’s health challenges.

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