What if you could live longer—and better? That is the premise of a new docuseries, Limitless with Chris Hemsworth, whose host is on a personal mission to learn how to extend health, strength, and intellect further into later life. New scientific research is shattering conventional wisdom about the human body and offering intriguing insights into how we can unlock our body’s superpowers to fight illness, perform better, and even reverse the aging process.
The longevity of human life is heavily influenced by genetics, the environment, and lifestyle. Studies show environmental progress that began in the 1900s helped extend the average life span, with significant improvements in the availability of food and clean water, better housing and living conditions, reduced exposure to infectious diseases, and access to medical care.
An Aging Population and the Role of Technology in Longevity
The search for ageless living begs the question: why do some people live to 105 and others cannot make it past 60 years of age? Of course, there are many factors, including DNA, access to healthcare, and preventive medicine. It also merits another question: are people who live longer enjoying quality of life?
Globally, life expectancy has increased by more than 6 years between 2000 and 2019—from 66.8 years in 2000 to 73.4 years in 2019. More recently, the opposite is true: global life expectancy appears to have declined by 0.92 years between 2019 and 2020 and by another 0.72 years between 2020 and 2021. (This decline seems to have ended during the last quarter of 2021.) This represents the first decline in global life expectancy since 1950, when global estimates from the United Nations first became available. The decline between 2019 and 2021 may be in part due to the number of deaths related to COVID-19, although instances of heart disease, cancer, and suicide also rose during the last decade.
Despite data suggesting recent dips in overall lifespan, the population of aging adults is on a continued growth trajectory. The World Health Organization (WHO) predicts that by 2030, 1 in 6 people in the world will be aged 60 years or older. At this time, the share of the population aged 60 years and over will increase from 1B in 2020 to 1.4B and, by 2050, reach 2.1B. The number of persons aged 80 years or older is expected to triple between 2020 and 2050 to reach 426 million.
As the population of aging adults continues to increase, so too do the challenges of caring for them. Not all aging individuals live in institutional settings, have family caregivers, and/or require assisted living. Who or what will be able to fill the gap in a way that provides quality support for their needs with dignity, privacy, and security?
For the last few decades, the term ‘preventive care’ has been used to motivate patients to engage in yearly physicals, cancer screenings, and other wellness activities, not necessarily to always prevent the disease but to get ahead of it.
Today, a new term and market has emerged: Longevity Technology. Combined with scientific research, longevity technology focuses on enabling people to live longer and achieve better health and wellness. The global complementary and alternative medicine for anti-aging and longevity market size is expected to reach USD $182.9B by 2028.
How Data Can Impact Longevity
The future of healthcare is digital, with wearable devices, remote patient monitoring (RPM), and remote therapeutic monitoring (RTM) leading the way. Each of these technologies generates trillions of bytes of potential insights that contribute to understanding what impacts the human body.
The number of connected wearable devices worldwide has more than doubled in 3 years, from 325 million in 2016 to 722 million in 2019. This number is forecast to reach more than one billion by 2022. A research report suggests approximately 30% of the world’s data volume is now being generated by the healthcare industry, with approximately 80% of health data, mostly from wearables and hospital diagnostics, remaining unstructured and untapped after it is created. With such a proliferation, it is reported that an estimated 41.6 billion connected devices will generate 79.4 zettabytes (ZB) of data in 2025.
Longevity technology has now become the new race in healthcare. The longevity technology market represents innovators seeking to harvest this untapped data to derive actionable insights. Unlike the current use of digital technologies designed for monitoring and maintenance, longevity technology seeks to create a fundamental change in thinking from treatment to prevention. It aims to take technologies that simply monitor to ones that monitor and offer insight. Using digital technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), wearables, and biosensors in combination with scientific advancements in genetics, environmental, and physiological research, the world’s experts are building ways to improve longevity and quality of life.
In an attempt to defy aging, Saudi Arabia has placed a $20 billion longevity biotechnology bet with its Hevolution Foundation—and they are not alone. The United States Pentagon released its own research report on longevity technology opportunities with an eye toward the nation’s rapidly aging population.
With the accessibility of real-world health data and as science advances toward extended quality of life , longevity now lies in the realm of technology and medicine.
To learn more about IEEE SA’s work, join us in this on-demand webinar series that discusses using assistive robotic technologies and companions to support the diverse needs of an aging population.