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Changing the World’s Conversation About Aging

A new view of living longer

Japan Post Co. mailman and his bike

Kiyoshi Ota/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Japan Post Holdings Co. is creatively adapting to aging populations by uses postal carriers to check on the well-being of older residents and relaying that information to family members using a tablet.

En español | I wrote the book Disrupt Aging: A Bold New Path to Living Your Best Life at Every Age two years ago to help change the conversation about what it means to grow older. I believe we need to create a new mind-set around aging—a new way of thinking about possible solutions that can help us live better as we age.

With the release of the paperback edition of Disrupt Aging this month, it’s gratifying to see shifts in attitudes, behaviors and culture as more people throughout the world are challenging outdated attitudes and stereotypes and sparking new solutions that recognize the potential historic benefits of living longer.

Where leaders once looked at the growing aging population and saw only retirees, they are now beginning to see a new type of experienced, accomplished workforce. Where they once saw only expensive costs, they are now beginning to see an exploding consumer market that is bolstering our economies. And where they once saw only a growing pool of dependents, they are now beginning to see intergenerational communities with new and different strengths.

All we have to do is look around us to see what is happening. Advances in research and technology are driving innovation in virtually every field of endeavor that affects our ability to live well as we age. Entrepreneurs and innovators are creating an incredible array of products and services targeted to people as they age. Science is making longer lives possible, and we’re just now beginning to realize the opportunities those longer lives offer.

People are reinventing work, searching for purpose, embracing technology and opening themselves up to new experiences.

Societies around the world are coming up with creative, commonsense ways of adapting to the challenges posed by aging populations and doing it with existing resources. One example is Japan’s Watch Over service. For a small monthly fee, a Japanese postal carrier will check on an older resident along the mail delivery route and relay information about the resident’s well-being to family members using a tablet. The brilliance of this model is that it takes an existing infrastructure resource (a nationwide postal delivery network) and a seemingly unconnected challenge (isolated seniors) and puts them together. It works. The cost is low, the barriers to entry are few, and the payoff is huge.

Here at AARP we’re embracing a culture of innovation. Through our innovation lab and our AARP innovation fund, we’re exploring ideas for products, services, collaborations, campaigns, apps and projects focused on our three pillars of health, wealth and self. We’re designing and experimenting with virtual reality and artificial intelligence. We’re investing in promising technology. We’re working with universities, health care systems, banks, entrepreneurs, students, programmers, community leaders and more to find ways of empowering more people to live better as they age.

As you read Disrupt Aging, you’ll discover it’s about embracing aging as something to look forward to, not something to fear. It’s about seeing ourselves and others as contributors to society, not burdens. It’s not just about adding years to the end of life; it’s about creating a bold new path to living your best life at every age.

Jo Ann Jenkins is CEO of AARP.