Before you read this blog about the Business of Aging, I’d like to clarify what we’re talking about when we say “aging.” Start by asking yourself, what age do you consider old?

I guarantee that everyone reading this blog has a different age in mind. According to the MIT AgeLab’s Dr. Joseph Coughlin, the opening keynote speaker at Monday’s Business of Aging Summit, people generally consider “old” to mean 15-20 years older than they are.

This says a lot about how we think about age — basically, it means anyone older than we are. And the number of people in this category is growing, as Canada’s population aged 65+ is expected to double in the next 15 years.

The provocative question Dr. Coughlin posed to participants at Business of Aging was: Now that we’re living much longer, what will we do with all our extra time?

His answer: Invent a new way to live, work and play tomorrow.

That was the focus of the 2012 Business of Aging Summit, with an emphasis on keeping Canada’s aging workforce healthy, effective, engaged and available to work.

Opening keynote: Dr. Joseph Coughlin, Director, MIT AgeLab

In a day bookended by keynote addresses from global experts on aging, the “books” themselves reflected our MaRS setting. Panels, presentations and discussions addressed a range of entrepreneur-driven solutions for our aging employees:

  • Caregiving solutions based on social networking (Tyze Personal Networks) and integrated systems to support home-based care (Mon Ami) – to support Canada’s four million informal caregivers
  • Chronic disease prevention and management tools, including web and mobile apps to stop smoking and achieve other behaviour changes (Evolution Health); work-based fitness programs (The Exercise Doctor); and cardiovascular health risk assessments and programs (INTERxVENT) – all designed to reverse the trends of absenteeism (and presenteeism) of chronically ill workers
  • Brain health self-assessment to determine whether memory loss is a normal result of aging or a medical concern, and coping tools to manage normal aging (Cogniciti)
  • Talent management toolkits to help older workers find the roles that fit their aptitude, interest and availability (The Workplace Institute)
  • And other innovations shared at the Innovation Showcase throughout the day.

Dr. Alain Sotto, Chief Physician – Wellness Division at Ontario Power Generation and Occupational Medical Consultant at the TTC, reminded us that innovative solutions can come from within organizations as well, such as his in-house programming to Educate, Empower, Enable, and Engage employees at OPG and TTC to prevent colorectal cancer, one of the top four cancer killers, where risk starts to increase at age 50.

The closing keynote from Geoff Mulgan, CEO of the UK’s Nesta, confirmed what we knew all along: with age comes the wisdom, experience and maturity that are invaluable in the workplace. In fact, he shared that the success rate for social entrepreneurs aged 50+ is much greater than that of those in their 30s. And the biggest reason entrepreneurs in the 50+ group (at least in the UK) are starting their own businesses is to avoid retirement!

Being seen as useful is salutagenic to the self – it supports health and well-being. In fact, 60-year-olds who are optimistic about aging live seven years longer on average than those who aren’t.

Closing keynote: Geoff Mulgan, CEO, Nesta

People are living longer – but we want them to also live better, for themselves, for our workplaces and for our society. The opportunity is ours, and we have many of the solutions we need to make the most of it.

The challenge before us is to act on what we know – will you join us?

Read more in our paper, Business of Aging: Wellness solutions for our aging workforce, or visit our website.

Visit our flickr page for more high resolution event images.

Karen Greve Young

As the Vice President, Corporate Development & Partnerships for MaRS, Karen Greve Young is the executive lead responsible for: MaRS corporate strategy development, implementation and measurement; relationships with our global network of innovation partners; and community engagement. See more…