One of the greatest achievements to come of modern medicine is that humans are living longer than ever. Life expectancy is reaching new heights and showing no sign of dropping. More years to live, naturally, means more years spent in old age. It means more time to accumulate wisdom, and more time to share it with the young.

While longevity is cause for celebration, the sheer magnitude of the demographic shift to come is still cause for concern. The health and social needs of older adults are highly specific and complex. As their numbers increase, so too must the services and supports needed to sustain them. This leap in demand coincides with a similarly unprecedented decline in global birth rates, ruling out the possibility that younger generations will be able to step up and do the caregiving.

I have written previously on the concrete actions we can take to equip ourselves for the challenges of caring for aging societies. Moving forward, however, requires expanding our ability to see ahead—to envision ways of growing old, and aging well, that are dynamic, diverting, and open ended. Older adults deserve a continuum of care as full as the lives behind and ahead of them—one that encourages them, as they gain more time, to live no less.

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Originally published on Forbes (December 20, 2019)