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UAE elevates discussions on healthy ageing

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Emma Brodina, Deputy Managing Partner of Deep Knowledge Group, speaks about the longevity sector and how it is using data analytics and tech to address growing concerns about ageing.

Only 1 per cent of the UAE population was over the age of 60 in 2016. By 2050, this figure is predicted to reach two million people, or 16 per cent of the country's population, The UAE is adopting national longevity regulations and encouraging innovators in the field to open dedicated clinics and bring cutting-edge technologies to forefront in line with this demographic shift.

With the region's ageing population and concerns about long-term care on the rise, the UAE has established a pattern for the region's longevity sector by embracing data and analytics, spreading knowledge about healthy ageing, and working towards the formulation of a national longevity policy, explains Emma Brodina, Deputy Managing Partner of Deep Knowledge Group.

Aligned with this vision, Brodina tells us that Emirates Health Services (EHS) and Cerner, a worldwide healthcare IT firm, announced a collaboration with SAS, one of the world's leading analytics company, to create a one-of-a-kind analytics solution that would boost the UAE’s national health services’ efficiency and quality.

“The implementation of this solution is in line with the UAE Centennial Plan 2071, which aims to improve the quality of life for all people by providing improved healthcare services. The solution promises to provide smart analytics to decision makers in the UAE healthcare business, leveraging enormous data sets of existing and potential patients,” she says.

Within the framework of the ‘Analysis of Smart Home Technology Acceptance and Preference for Elderly in Dubai’ conducted by Arar et al at Ajman University, surveys and interviews were conducted among 110 people in their 40s and 60s. The results showed that 67 per cent of elderly users in the UAE have chronic diseases such as high blood pressure (16.2 per cent), heart disease (3.8 per cent), diabetes (32.4 per cent), or arthritis (10.5 per cent). Thus, smart home technology for health management among the elderly is critical, informs the Deputy Managing Partner as we dive into further questions in an exclusive interview:

What is the role of technology and investment in driving longevity and how will these new senior care facilities be different compared to the current facilities?

Advanced healthcare has contributed significantly to the country's increased life expectancy.

Despite this achievement, the UAE faces the challenge of an ageing population. The population of people aged 65 and up is growing. The National Policy for Senior Emiratis, which is built on an integrated care system to ensure that seniors remain active and have access to government services, has been in effect since October 2018. Senior Emiratis will be covered by a special health insurance plan, according to the policy. New centres will be built to teach them current skills, and new residences will be built to fit their needs. However, policymakers must pay attention to the provision of home-based formal care in the light of cultural considerations.

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Emma Brodina, Deputy Managing Partner of Deep Knowledge Group.

These initiatives are meant to increase the number of senior care facilities and longevity clinics, and draw cutting-edge technologies and investments to the sector. For example, these initiatives developed the first treatment of its kind that stimulates the body's natural process of creating new stem cells, which are the building blocks of tissue regeneration. Similar programmes have shown to be effective in treating age-related cognitive and physical deterioration, as well as changing people's perceptions of the ageing process. Memory, attention span, thinking speed, focus, and other brain-related executive skills are just a few of the benefits that can be obtained from the treatment. Other treatments, in addition to enhancing cognition, can lower biomarkers linked to the development of Alzheimer's disease.

How will these new integrations be adapted by senior patients with support within facilities and through specialist guidance? Will AI be a key component of this?

The Ministry of Health and Prevention established many initiatives for the benefit of senior citizens as part of the implementation of the National Policy for Senior Emiratis. One of these initiatives is the creation of a database to track the life expectancy of the country's elderly population and the expansion of healthcare programmes and services, particularly home care services. The ministry runs mobile clinics in Fujairah and Ras Al Khaimah's rural locations. Medical care, rehabilitation, natural remedies, preventive measures, dental, optical, dermatological, and diabetes treatments are among the services provided.

Sheikh Khalifa Medical City in Abu Dhabi and Al Tawam Hospital in Al Ain provide home care services to all UAE citizens. The Abu Dhabi Rehabilitation Centre is the only facility in the city dedicated to providing specialised elderly care. It welcomes old people who are cared for by no one else. Diagnosis, consultation, physical therapy, speech therapy, psychotherapy, exercise therapy, water treatment, job therapy, family counselling, and social integration are among the services provided by the Abu Dhabi Rehabilitation Centre.

The 'Elderly Happiness' and 'Home Care (Weleef)' programmes run by Dubai's Community Development Authority ensure that senior citizens are rehabilitated, cared for, and happy. Both Emiratis and expatriates can use the Dubai Health Authority's home care services. DHA offers a wide range of services, including thorough geriatric assessments, nursing care, home safety evaluations, rehabilitation, and nutrition assessments.

AI has the potential to become a fundamental tool for developing, refining, and applying novel solutions for human longevity, acting as the primary catalyst in accelerating progress in this domain and as the trigger in a chain reaction that will lead to rapid progress in the translation of longevity theory into practice. AI is currently a primary driver of the development of breakthrough diagnostic and treatment techniques. Today, AI is also playing an important role in the software and technology development sectors, which have a significant impact on the social lives of the elderly and care approaches.

Furthermore, AI is a modern driving force across industries, and its interconnectivity will have a massive cumulative influence on the longevity sector.

Can you elaborate on longevity’s positioning in key sub sectors such as BioTech, FinTech and InsurTech?

At Deep Knowledge Group, we operate several analytical subsidiaries that run activities in various longevity domains.

Within BioTech, the core scope of activities covers technological insights, market intelligence, and strategic guidance in the high growth and significant opportunity areas of the sector. The analytics across BioTech exploration is focused on mechanisms of biological ageing and target the root causes of ageing–the so-called “hallmarks of ageing”. They involve genomic instability, telomere attrition, epigenetic alterations, loss of proteostasis, deregulated nutrient-sensing, mitochondrial dysfunction, cellular senescence, stem cell exhaustion, and altered intercellular communication. That is why the core idea of doing analytics and market recommendations lies in dealing with the complex set of parameters associated with healthy longevity.

Activities in longevity insurtech cover the progressive and modern insurance solutions (and health and life insurance in particular) that are designed to meet the needs of individuals who plan to actively expand their health span and maintain prolonged periods of healthy longevity. At the same time, longevity insurtech solutions are designed for those who expect to maintain their wealth span, and for insurance providers to enhance their business models and profitability.

The most sophisticated and prospective organisations engaged in insurtech are those utilising Biomarkers of Human Longevity as the basis for tracking whether the elderly are meeting their healthy lifestyle goals. Epigenetic clock tests, that indicate an individual’s biological age, are currently being marketed to life insurance companies to help them calculate an individual’s life expectancy. It is more evident that insurers need a rigorous overall measure of human health risk, and longevity biomarkers can greatly benefit and strengthen current approaches. While the Insurtech sector is the leading example of financial companies onboarding the practical application of Biomarkers of Longevity, we believe that it is just the start of a much larger trend that will involve the financial industry.

Longevity fintech involves the development of products that are aimed to assist the elderly with financial inclusion by taking into account the specific needs of the silver generation. Such products can make the mobile experience easier and safer for people of old age due to the features in combination with cutting-edge healthtech and agetech designed for users who are planning to live healthy, extra-long lives and remain financially stable.

Please comment on SRTIP and DKA’s partnership and what pressing challenges it is addressing in developing the longevity sector.

This collaboration aimed to map the UAE's longevity industry, fostering knowledge of relevant sectors locally and internationally, developing comprehensive stakeholder engagement, identifying major drivers of the industry across the country, and ultimately developing in coordination with relevant government institutions robust national longevity policies to maximise the health and wealth of the nation. It also aims to prepare future leaders to advance longevity as a key component of the country’s future strategic agenda, and enhance the knowledge and career-based opportunities of UAE students by creating a longevity-focused educational programme within universities in the UAE.

The partnership also aims to enhance the knowledge about longevity and promote its adoption nationwide, identify the UAE’s driving forces behind the longevity industry and healthy ageing, and devise an action plan for government entities, enabling them to establish and advance their longevity development agenda.

This partnership is a step toward leading, growing, and commercialising the longevity industry in the UAE. National governments currently sit at a crossroads of major challenges and opportunities.

In 2022 and in collaboration with SRTIP, ‘The Life Sciences in the UAE’ report was released, highlighting major UAE players in the field of life sciences, covering technological trends and advances, analysing existing and projected governmental policies, and providing an overview of underlying economic and financial data. In addition, to refine and elevate the discourse on longevity, Deep Knowledge Group conducted an online event, ‘The Emerging Longevity Industry — A UAE Perspective’, in association with SRTIP.

Lastly, together with SRTIP, we hosted a tech talk under the theme, ‘Health is the new wealth’, as part of the Ramadan Majlis series held at SRTIP premises in Sharjah.

TAGS: longevity AI
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