Connecting generations: Funding longer lives

When we celebrated our 150 Year Anniversary in 2013, the Centre for Global Dialogue launched a series of events under the motto of “Connecting generations”. This series continued in early 2014, first focusing on our Top Topic of “funding longer lives”. A mixed group of entrepreneurs, industry experts, government representatives and researchers met to discuss the roles of different generations in tackling the financial challenges posed by our ageing societies.

The discussion revealed two ways of trying to address the looming pensions’ crisis. The first is financial: Individuals should be encouraged to save more, while private and employers’ pensions must be further developed. Insurance schemes covering care costs could also help, but need time to develop. The second is to challenge our current work-life patterns. It is neither financially feasible nor economically optimal that most workers retire in their early 60s. We all need to be much more flexible in rethinking our working lives and retirement, so individuals can choose a lifestyle that suits their personal and financial circumstances.

It was also argued, however, that we may not just have to rethink pensions and retirement, but the concept of ageing altogether. New technologies are already being developed that have the potential to fundamentally change the way we age. They include, for example, augmentation of existing organs, bionic implants, personalised medicine and diagnostics such as biometric sensors. When such “next society” technologies begin to influence both our longevity and our investment decisions, this will raise profound moral, social and political questions for our societies.