Putting wellbeing at the centre of the political agenda: what if longevity was not just a consequence of policy, but the focus of policy?
Despite promising massive vaccine campaigns, we are still in the midst of a global pandemic. This impacts all communities and economies across the world - our neighbourhoods, our families and friends, all of us as individuals. The pandemic has highlighted just how interconnected we all are and need to be. It has also shone a spotlight firmly on what is important to our wellbeing (physical, mental, emotional and financial). What do we value in our communities and neighbourhoods, our homes?
A focus on wellbeing puts health and wealth (and inequalities) at the centre of policy, economy, and innovation, and shapes a conversation about what really matters in our life. It is fundamental to how we choose to develop, design, and shape our environments, our everyday consumer products, and our services, based on what different people need, want and desire at different points in their life. This ensures that people can be resilient and have choices, wherever they live.
This dialogue must be inter-generational; a focus on through-life wellbeing is crucially important. It encourages a longer-term view, embraces the need for valuing human capital, and provides an opportunity for education and long-life learning.
As we look ahead, economic recovery and growth post-COVID-19 is, of course, vitally important. But what is of equal importance is valuing people’s happiness. The pandemic has highlighted that a healthy work-life balance is essential. Wellbeing economies value fairly-paid, meaningful, and fulfilling work – it’s about lives with purpose, not just the number of jobs created. For thousands of women who are unpaid carers, the world over, this matters as they matter.
This is essential if we are to make any progress with ambitious targets for extensions in healthy life expectancy. The United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 2021- 2030 as the UN Decade of Healthy Ageing to improve the lives of older people across the globe. By 2050 many regions and cities will be continuing to undergo profound changes, with significant shifts in populations, median age, and composition. These demographic transitions – and transformations – of more than 2 billion people over 60 by 2050 will, naturally, offer both opportunities and challenges. We will have to understand more about the diverse, and often contrasting, patterns of population growth – where and how people are living, with fundamental differences in urban and rural areas. Of course, COVID-19 will undoubtedly change this further, as we are already seeing signals of changes to life expectancy ratios. There are also significant and widening global and regional inequalities, huge strains on the planet’s sustainability. This means that approaches which put both citizen and planet wellbeing foremost and centre matter increasingly.
In 2019, the New Zealand Government published a Treasury-led Economic Strategy for Growth, ‘the Wellbeing Budget’, putting citizen wellbeing at the heart of the Treasury and therefore all government policy. Mental and physical wellbeing was crucially not assigned to departments of health and social care, but rather considered to be central to the country’s economic success and prosperity. This included significant investment in tackling mental illness, anxiety and depression, child poverty, with billions dedicated to reducing inequalities, and ministers across all departments instructed to design policies which specifically improve wellbeing.
The message is clear – wellbeing is not just a consequence of policy but must be the focus of policy, as a country’s economic prosperity and productivity depend on it being high.
This challenges current thinking. This model is not simply about reorganising health and social care. Much health and social care reorganisation has been for the benefit of the organisation, rather than for its impact on the public. This model emphasises different aspects of health and social care delivery. Services in this model that were ‘the poor relation’ become mainstream. Carers and mental health take centre stage. Economy, and what makes people happy, is emphasised for each and every policy and approach. It demands cross-government join-up and action. Services become about proactive prevention and enablement, rather than reactive care.
And this gives us an opportunity to focus on an economy, and products and services, for aspiration, on changing the conversation to be about what we can do, want to do, as opposed to what we can’t do. Our goal is to live as full a life as possible, and a healthier and longer life as possible. Designing products which inspire and are fun to use. We must plan, design, and deliver products and services not for ‘old age’ per se, but for through-life wellbeing and longevity.
This is what we do at NICA. Our unique branded approach is Ageing Intelligence® – combining research expertise in understanding the correlation between markets demands, industry dynamics and people’s needs, applying to that the latest in artificial intelligence and evidence from big data, alongside what is arguably the key intelligence: human experience.
By harnessing the immense wisdom, insights and experience of citizens and their stakeholders – their human capital – we rapidly translate this intelligence to co-create, to design, develop and bring to the market products and services that are urgently needed across the world to help people have choices to live healthier, better, and longer lives.
This is needed and needed now. Join us.