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We will all age and we all have people in our lives who are ageing: parents, grandparents, friends. Most of us wish to retain our wellbeing and autonomy physically and mentally – to remain in our homes, in our communities. Within widely varied social, economic and cultural contexts, how can we help people understand their options, make informed decisions and activate themselves towards a state of wellbeing as they grow older? How can we help people thrive and live the lives they wish to live as they age?


Setting the Stage

As a world leader in providing healthcare for over 1 million unique patients annually, Mayo Clinic would like to explore the issues around remaining healthy and independent as we age.

Population ageing is unprecedented, without parallel in the history of humanity. Increases in the proportions of older persons (60 years or older) are being accompanied by declines in the proportions of the young (under age 15). By 2050, the number of older persons in the world will exceed the number of young for the first time in history. Moreover, by 1998 this historic reversal in relative proportions of young and old had already taken place in the more developed regions.
… Population ageing is profound, having major consequences and implications for all facets of human life. In the economic area, population ageing will have an impact on economic growth, savings, investment and consumption, labor markets, pensions, taxation and intergenerational transfers. In the social sphere, population ageing affects health and healthcare, family composition and living arrangements, housing and migration. In the political arena, population ageing can influence voting patterns and representation.
Keeping this context in mind, what might healthy ageing and independent living look like in 2013 and beyond?

Before We Are Old – Preparing for the Future

The choices we make in our 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s have an enormous impact on our lives once we enter our 60s and beyond. The social determinants of health play their part as we grow older. These include the circumstances in which people are born, grow up, live, work and age – and the systems put in place to deal with illness.
  • How might we activate people who are passive towards their health to become active in making healthy behavior choices?
  • How might we decrease inactivity and poor diet choices?
  • How might we better collectively address inequalities in the social determinants of health to ensure everyone can age in a healthy and independent way?
  • How might we help people envision their future based on their current behaviors?

Between Middle and Old Age – Life Transitions

The transition from working, raising children, and other aspects of our daily grind into retirement is a challenge for most people. People in this life stage are frequently also caregivers to another person. These family or unpaid caregivers are an essential presence helping oversee the wellbeing of an entire generation through the challenges of ageing. Yet many of those providing this care are also at critical points in their own lifespans – where lifestyle decisions and additional stress may not only compromise their own health but that of those for whom they are caring.
  • How might we help people transition successfully from full time work to retirement?
  • How do we provide support and services to people who serve as caregivers for older adults?
  • What tools might help people plan for their financial transitions and the potential stresses associated with ageing?

Growing Old, Remaining Independent

Ageing need not be a slow motion series of unpleasant experiences culminating in a nursing home. People remain active and are able to live the lives they wish to live not necessarily because they don’t suffer from disease or illness, but rather because they are able to accomplish the activities of daily life. This leads to a sense of happiness and satisfaction. In contrast, the loss of independence – due to multiple chronic conditions, restriction of physical functions, or lack of access to suitable housing, food and resources – can lead to significant dissatisfaction. 
  • What economic, cultural, social or environmental levers can we pull to help people have a happy and satisfying experience as they age?
  • Are there products or services that might help people remain healthy and dependent as they age?
  • How might we help families and caregivers work with ageing adults to make informed choices about the future and understand the financial impact of their choices?
  • How might we improve access to government and community services that can help people experience healthy ageing and independent living?
Together with Mayo Clinic, along with its partners Good Samaritan Society, UnitedHealth Care and General Mills, we're eager to explore these issues and work together towards concrete, actionable ideas to improve lives, health and wellbeing.

Learn more about factors that affect healthy ageing.

About Our Sponsor

Mayo Clinic is a nonprofit worldwide leader in medical care, research and education for people from all walks of life. Doctors from every medical specialty work together to care for patients, joined by common systems and a philosophy of 'the needs of the patient come first.'
Challenge Partners:


  UnitedHealth Care


  Good Samaritan Society


  General Mills

Community Cross-Pollinator

  Meena Kadri

Challenge Community Champion

  Annie Lin

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Photo of Paula Suarez

The food in Senior housing, assisted living and nursing homes is pathetic. We need to incorporate healthy whole food in these facilities. I would love to conduct a study in some facilities by incorporating one healthy,organic, whole foods meal a day for 30 days and see what happens. For those that cannot chew well, why can't there be a few vitamix' that can blend organic, whole foods into tasty nutritious green drinks? Or even further, for those that cannot digest as well, why can't a juicer be available so that those people could have one juice a day for 30 days. My hypothesis is that there would be a drastic change in the health of all of the recipients.

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