The challenges facing aging societies

Lisa Berkman-TedxHarvardCollege

As both birth rates and death rates drop in most countries around the world, societies are facing new challenges in dealing with their aging populations. Lisa Berkman, Thomas D. Cabot Professor of Public Policy and of Epidemiology and director of the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies, addressed the issue in a talk at the inaugural TedxHarvardCollege event in November.

One challenge will be to ensure that the world population is healthy and that health inequalities are reduced, said Berkman before a crowd of hundreds at the Radcliffe Knafel Center. She also said that the current focus on getting a lot of education as young adults, working “like crazy” in middle age, then spending old age in “an undefined set of roles,” should be rethought.

“Lifelong education is going to be really important,” she said. And “we need to take time out to raise families; it would be really good to borrow some of the leisure from old age and put it into the bucket in middle age.” We should “spread out our working lives longer,” she said, “but that requires a whole new way of thinking about work.”

Berkman was one of nine speakers at the TedxHarvardCollege event, titled 9 Billion: Surviving & Thriving in 2050.

Watch Lisa Berkman’s TedxHarvardCollege talk: The Shape of Population to Come