Evaluating innovative approaches to aging populations


David Peran

8/2/20235 min read

A recent Wall Street Journal article written by Anne Tergesen outlined ten innovative initiatives that countries across the globe have implemented to address their aging populations. The suggestions are designed to help older individuals live longer, healthier, more financially secure, and fulfilling lives. While these ideas are indeed innovative, their feasibility varies when it comes to implementing them in different cultural, political, and economic contexts. This article represents my personal analysis of these proposals. Please note that these are my initial thoughts and implementing any such programs in specific countries would require additional research and comprehensive understanding of their unique circumstances.

1. Encouraging retirement savings (UK)

The UK government requires automatic enrollment of employees into a retirement savings plan. This ensures a larger percentage of the workforce is planning for retirement. Default enrollment and employer contributions have led to increased participation. This strategy has seen significant success in improving financial security for retirees in the UK.

> The feasibility of this approach largely depends on a nation's existing pension systems and legislation. It requires employer capacities and supportive tax policies. Although it shows promise, other countries may need significant systemic adjustments to implement this plan. The necessity for well-thought-out policies and legal support can be a challenge.

2. Retirement savings dashboards (Denmark)

Denmark offers an online dashboard for retirement planning. This system allows workers to view all their retirement accounts in one place. By increasing transparency, individuals are prompted towards proactive retirement planning. The dashboard operates on the basis of a comprehensive pension data aggregation system.

> This system is dependent on robust data aggregation capabilities. Implementation would require advanced technological infrastructure and appropriate data privacy safeguards. While it could be beneficial in enhancing transparency and decision-making, feasibility may be limited in countries with lower technical capacities. Therefore, this innovation needs careful assessment and planning.

3. Hybrid retirement plans (Netherlands)

The Netherlands implements a hybrid retirement plan. This model blends professional investment management with guaranteed lifetime income. It combines elements of defined contribution and defined benefit plans. The plan is offered across industries, providing secure retirements for workers.

> This model requires high levels of coordination between employers, government, and the financial sector. Larger, decentralized countries may face difficulty in its implementation. While the model is promising, it may be best suited for smaller nations with centralized authority. Further study is needed to adapt this approach for different contexts.

4. Intergenerational relationships (Finland)

Finland promotes a "communal grandparent" program. Older volunteers are linked with children and youth, fostering intergenerational connections. This approach supports mutual learning and connection. It's an innovative social strategy to deal with an aging population.

> Cultural differences and social trust levels can affect the adoption of this model. Its replication in different countries may require significant adaptation. However, this idea has potential for promoting social cohesion in aging societies. Careful planning can help to surmount potential cultural barriers.

5. Recruiting older workers (UK)

A UK nonprofit facilitates second careers for experienced professionals as teachers. It provides necessary training and job placement. This strategy values the experience and knowledge of older workers. It shows how older workers can make significant contributions in new roles.

> It needs parallel efforts to combat age bias and foster age-friendly workplaces. For successful implementation, a comprehensive societal shift in the perception of older workers is necessary. While it shows potential, its feasibility could be limited by prevailing societal biases. Yet, it offers a way to address labor shortages and provide fulfilling work to older adults.

6. Caring grandmothers (Zimbabwe)

Zimbabwe trains older women to provide mental healthcare in their communities. It leverages the societal role of grandmothers. This approach fills gaps in professional services and utilizes existing resources. It's a unique strategy to address mental health care in resource-constrained settings.

> The feasibility of this approach depends on cultural norms and healthcare system constraints. Quality control and participant wellbeing must be ensured for its success. Although it is a creative approach, it requires careful adaptation and implementation. More research is needed to evaluate its replication in other settings.

7. Self-help clubs (Vietnam)

Vietnam supports self-help clubs for seniors. They offer social engagement and access to services. These clubs operate at the grassroots level and promote community support. It's a strategy to promote social inclusion of older adults.

> Its viability in other countries may depend on community structures and resources. Training, organizational structure, and sustainability must be studied for its replication. Despite potential challenges, it holds promise for promoting social support in aging societies. A more detailed feasibility assessment is necessary.

8. Urban planning (Singapore)

Singapore implements age-friendly urban planning. This strategy caters to the needs of the elderly in urban settings. It encourages the inclusion of older adults in urban life. Singapore's approach is a model for cities looking to become more age-friendly.

> Few places possess the unique attributes of Singapore, like centralized authority. Full-scale implementation of such initiatives may be challenging in other contexts. However, incorporating aspects of age-friendly urban planning could be feasible on a smaller scale. Detailed assessment and planning are required for implementation.

9. Long-term care insurance (Japan)

Japan has a universal long-term care insurance program. It addresses the high costs of elder care. It's an initiative to financially support the needs of an aging society. The program serves as a model for other countries grappling with similar challenges.

> Funding constraints and coordination issues can hamper the implementation of such systems. Even though it is beneficial, its feasibility is limited in countries with resource constraints. Further research is necessary to explore potential ways of overcoming these challenges. It is a concept that warrants further investigation due to its potential benefits.

10. Working longer (Japan)

Japan incentivizes delayed retirement with pension bonuses. It encourages older workers to stay in the labor market longer. This strategy counters workforce shrinking due to aging. It's an approach that values the contribution of older workers.

> This approach must be complemented with efforts to combat age discrimination. Legal protections and economic incentives are crucial for its implementation. While it can address labor shortages, it requires careful balancing of multiple factors. It is a feasible strategy if effectively integrated with broader age-friendly policies.

In conclusion, while not every initiative can be implemented universally, proactive policymaking and age-friendly programs are increasingly becoming crucial as populations age. Each country should research these innovative approaches objectively to assess their potential in their unique context. Sharing ideas between countries can accelerate progress, but there is no one-size-fits-all solution. The challenge is to adapt these initiatives to local contexts thoughtfully, viewing longevity as an opportunity for innovation rather than a problem to be solved.

What innovative ideas are being implemented in your own country to address the challenges and opportunities of an aging population? Don't hesitate - share your thoughts in the comments below.


The Wall Street Journal. Tergesen, Anne (2022). 10 innovations from around the world to help deal with an aging population. Available at:                                                      https://www.wsj.com/articles/aging-population-demographics-innovations-11668193557