Keynote speakers and presenters at the 12th APRU Population Ageing Virtual Conference

Co-hosted by Duke-NUS Medical School’s Centre for Ageing Research & Education and Zhejiang University, the 12th Association of Pacific Rim Universities (APRU) Population Ageing Virtual Conference kickstarted on 10 November, bringing together more than 40 experts on ageing research, policy and practice for two days of discussions focussed on the most pressing ageing-related issues faced by populations and governments.

In line with the theme, “Ageing at a time of crisis: understanding needs, navigating new challenges”, the conference delegates discussed issues such as shrinking workforce, changing healthcare and social needs and increasing pressure on public expenditure and social security across countries in Asia. The two-day conference also explored the impact of ageing on socio-economic policies, health systems, social institutions and relations and life cycles of individuals in the context of “crises”, including the COVID-19 pandemic and social and economic upheavals.

In her address, Associate Professor Angelique Chan, Programme Director, APRU Population Ageing and Executive Director of the Centre for Ageing Research and Education at Duke-NUS, touched on the importance of increasing healthy longevity, the diversity of the effects of population ageing and the importance of social engagement and psychological wellbeing in not only elderlies but also their caregivers—all of which were delved into throughout the conference.

“It is now abundantly clear that Asia will face one of the most significant demographic transitions of the years to come as populations experience longer life expectancies coupled with decreased fertility rates,” said Professor Patrick Casey, Senior Vice-Dean for Research at Duke-NUS, during his opening remarks.

Quoting statistics from the UN Population Fund, he added, “The implications of ageing population on healthcare systems, economic and social policies are profound and far reaching. For example, governments will need to find the balance between economic growth and the needs of the elderly for employment, health services, caregiving and social engagement. Other stakeholders, such as educational institutions like us, have important roles to play to support and learn from the different experiences encountered by the various populations in the region to share and produce knowledge and help improve existing policies and strategies that will enable successful aging in our region.”

“In a recent UN Forum, experts urged us to develop safe, secure and ageing-friendly environments as the Asia-Pacific population is ageing faster than any other region. Ageing issues such as inequality, income security, and the digital divide are being exacerbated by climate change, digital transformation and the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Dr Christopher Tremewan, Secretary General of APRU, in his welcome message.

APRU is a network of more than 60 universities across Asia-Pacific that brings together thought leaders, researchers and policymakers to discuss ageing-related issues and explore the topics of social policy.