When the UAE announced it was shifting its healthcare strategy to focus on longevity and healthy ageing, the country’s leaders once again demonstrated progressive thinking in preparation for the health and well-being of our future society.
In 2016, only one per cent of the UAE population was age 60 and older. By 2050 this number is expected to reach 16 per cent of the country’s population or two million people. In fact, over the past 100 years, the average life expectancy has more than doubled with the median age of the UAE population increasing from 18 to 46.
This demographic shift is having major social and economic implications for the country that requires a re-thinking and re-orientation of the nation’s investment in health and social services. That is why the UAE is elevating the conversation around healthy ageing, developing national longevity policies, and encouraging innovators in the sector to establish longevity clinics and bring cutting-edge technologies to the market.
Today, it is about helping people live better and longer while maximising society’s longevity opportunity. The longevity opportunity is where society recognises that our older population carry vast experience, knowledge and wisdom that make invaluable contributions to the continued social and economic development of the country.
With growing investments in the healthy ageing sector, we now can take control over the ageing process and reverse some of the physical and cognitive declines that typically occur around the age of 50. Aviv Clinics, for instance, created the first of its kind treatment that triggers the body’s natural process of generating new stem cells, which are the building blocks of tissue rejuvenation. By using a unique protocol of hyperbaric oxygen (HBOT), the body proliferates new stem cells in an environment full of oxygen to supply the energy for the process. Enabling the body to go over those processes again and again throughout the treatment period ends in enhanced and optimised brain and body performance.
Similar programmes have proven an ability to treat age-related cognitive and physical decline and change the way people experience the ageing process. Improvements in memory, attention span, speed of thinking, focus and other brain-related executive functions are only part of the benefits one can get from the treatment. In addition to improving cognition, other treatments can reduce bio-markers associated with the development of Alzheimer’s disease. The protocol is also relevant to treating deterioration in brain functionality caused by physical trauma or other medical conditions such as stroke, fibromyalgia, and other indications that result in damaged brain tissues.
For the UAE, being a pioneer in the healthy ageing sector also brings with it economic development opportunities. In 2020, the UAE reported that its longevity sector – which includes everything from BioTech and pharmaceuticals to FinTech and InsurTech – surpassed $19 billion and is expected to reach $32 billion by 2026. It will also contribute greatly to the UAE’s growing and dynamic medical tourism industry, which globally is expected to grow from just under $14 billion in 2021 to $53.5 billion in 2028. Both are tangible economic outcomes from investing in the UAE longevity opportunity.
The societal view on ageing historically has been that once people reach retirement age, it is time for them to relax and enjoy their “golden years” with their children and grandchildren caring for them. Breakthroughs in longevity science and ageing have totally changed that paradigm.
By investing in this emerging sector, the UAE is making a powerful statement that we can do so much more than just care for our ageing population and enable people to live longer. We can eliminate the phrase “you are in good health for someone your age” from the medical community lexicon. And we can help ensure the UAE and its people get the full benefit and impact of today’s new longevity opportunity.
Mike Frayne is the CEO of Aviv Clinics Dubai.