The world’s population is ageing. According to the United Nations, the number of people aged 60+ today, 0.9 billion people, is set to grow to 1.4 billion by 2013, and to a staggering 2.1 billion by 2050. The UN calls growth in the number of older persons ‘a global phenomenon’, adding that ‘virtually every country in the world will experience a substantial increase in the size of the population aged 60 years or over between 2015 and 2030’.
Keeping this population healthy should therefore be a top priority for the global biomedical industry. That’s why the longevity industry is so attractive to investors. This industry has made great strides over the past decade; it has changed from being an obscure science, viewed with suspicion, to enjoying more and more of the limelight, and that trend looks set to continue in 2018. People don’t just want to live longer; they want to ‘die young, as late as possible’. In other words, as people age, they want to be free from debilitating and life threatening diseases and conditions, such as cancer, stroke, hypertension, or Parkinson’s.
In a recent interview for Forbes by contributor and finance expert Richard Eisenberg, with Taimur Hyat, the Chief Strategy Officer at PGIM, Prudential Financial’s investment arm – which has $963 billion of funds under management – Hyat shared his views on investing into the ageing industry. He noted that ‘the first wave of tech and apps was designed with millennials in mind — pizza delivery and Uber. The next wave of platforms and technology will be designed with the needs of the elderly in mind. We’re already beginning to see this as a nascent opportunity’. Hyat also refers to the fact that on average, Americans over the age of 85 spend more than twice as much on healthcare as those aged between 65-85; considering that 85 is no longer regarded as the limit of our ageing expectations, it is clear that the healthcare industry, especially in the field of anti-ageing treatment, is set to grow exponentially in size.
Investors can explore these opportunities through health care funds, or Exchange Traded Funds, which track baskets of healthcare stocks. Or, as is becoming increasingly common, they can invest in the technology that underpins healthcare solutions. Apps, AI, superfast processors, and neural networks, to name a few. Nir Barzilai, director of the Institute for Aging Research at the Albert Einstein School of Medicine, was quoted recently as saying that ‘if we do not delay ageing, all we can hope for is to exchange one disease for another’. As we approach a new decade, investing in longevity must therefore develop in scope and purpose, focusing on new trends such as identifying ageing biomarkers that can be used on humans as opposed to animals, how to cure genomic instability, and stem cell technology.
There is crucial work that can and will be done, and as research progresses, an older, healthier population will present a fresh set of investing opportunities. Pension funds and life insurance policies will have to be rethought, vitamins, supplements and drug related treatments will become indispensable, and the ‘silver tech’ industry will diversify, and become more personalised. When we think of the $1.5 billion that Google and Abbvie technologies will invest into Calico Labs, an anti-ageing research institute, over the next decade, and the investments being made into longevity funds by the likes of Peter Thiel, and Bill Gates, it is clear that a lot of smart money is flooding into the longevity industry. Ageing is, perhaps, the major concern of our time. Investors may need to be patient at first, but the rewards are self evident and the returns will not just be measured in financial terms, but in happier, healthier lives for all.
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