The balancing act between insurance and the state’s social provision for the elderly is going to become an extremely important dynamic going forward when addressing the insurance needs of the older age population, said Dr Daria Ossipova, Head of R&D – Life related risks, SCOR Global Life, at the 12th Geneva Association Health and Ageing Conference.
The demographic future is going to be very different to what we have seen in the past and it will have profound implications on society, she said. “The need for old age protection and pensions will stimulate the demand for private coverage, especially in the case of government’s partial disengagement.”
The conference was held in Asia for the very first time. Asia is set to become the oldest region in the world. It is forecast that the region will account for 62% of the aged population globally by 2050, hence the issues of health and ageing are particularly important for Asia, said Mr Seow Yang Kwek, Senior Assistant Director of Singapore College of Insurance, which hosted the event.
The “interim generation”
Prof David Phillips, Chair Professor of Social Policy of Hong Kong’s Lingnan University, spoke about the unique challenges facing the elderly in Asia Pacific today. He described older persons in Asia today as “an interim generation”, one in which there is greater uncertainty. It is the generation that progressed with the economies but one in which the countries in Asia generally “got old before it got rich”. So there is uncertainty in terms of family and community support as family sizes are getting smaller, state provision is still minimal with elderly poverty a concern, and the living environment still not elderly friendly.
While financial aspects are important, Prof Phillips talked about an inter-sectoral collaboration for active ageing. The need for improved state support, assistance for family support, and elderly friendly environments – which will ultimately lower costs.
“If we get the environments right, people can be more independent with less need for formal and informal care. And the lower demands will reduce costs associated with such care,” he said.
Encouraging healthier behaviours
Mr Jeff Wu, Regional Head of Accident and Health Insurance, Generali Asia, added that healthier behaviours can be fostered using risk-based incentives and wellness programmes.
“Sub-healthy individuals are at high risk of developing diseases if not treated in time, but their sub-health status can be eliminated simply by psychological interventions and/or lifestyle modifications such as increasing physical activity and following a healthy diet,” he said.
Modifiable health risks that can be changed or treated – for example smoking, physical activity, and body weight – will benefit from wellness programmes which can focus on early detection, helping to quit bad habits, health education, and encouraging physical activity. Not only will this lower the costs of healthcare, it helps to foster healthy living and active ageing.