Perspective

A Sneak Preview of the SOA’s Living to 100 Symposium

December 16, 2019| Von Jean-Marc Fix | Life | English

The highlights of the SOA’s Living to 100 symposium next month will no doubt include the keynote speakers and panelist discussions. Since registration is now open, I thought I’d share an overview of some of the topics - and anyone on the fence with attending can hopefully be swayed to meet me there.

A key difficulty in scientific research, especially in a relatively new field like aging research, is to identify the variables that can be objectively measured. Steve Horvath, Ph.D., a professor of Human Genetics and Biostatistics at UCLA, developed exactly such a measure - the epigenetic clock. Since it was unveiled to the public in a Nature magazine article, the epigenetic clock has provided insights into how tissues age in response to a variety of stressors. Steve will explain the principles behind this clock and give us a glimpse of his latest research in the field of biomarkers of aging, where statistics and epigenetics collide.

Aging is not just a scientific process, obviously, but an experience that transforms us as well as the society in which we live. With the advent of artificial intelligence, we expect significant disruption - and therefore transformation - in what it means to work and the kind of work that is necessary. Combine this disruption with an aging population, and we have a perfect storm. The second speaker, Jacquelyn B James, Ph.D., co-director of the Center on Aging and Work at Boston College, will give us some insights into what to expect, how to navigate this period of change, and the importance of breaking away from assumptions and stereotypes.

Finally, the symposium will feature Ronnie Klein, FSA, who is the executive director of BILTIR, the Bermuda International Long Term Insurers and Reinsurers, and was the director of the Geneva Association’s Global Ageing Programme. He will give us his view on what all this research means for the future of the insurance industry, the products we develop, and the people we serve.

Panel discussions are always perennial favorites as the exchange between recognized experts is both lively and accessible to all. I am especially looking forward to two which are “Mortality Projection from a Social Security Panel” and “What’s on the Horizon in Aging Research?”

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The Mortality Projections from a Social Security panel is a crowd favorite and has been on the program agenda since at least the second symposium, which was the first I attended - and I have been to all the panels since then. The level of panelists’ knowledge, professionalism, and willingness to exchange ideas, combined with the fact that they represent the highest echelon of actuarial involvement in their respective countries, ensures a lively and interesting discussion - and it is reassuring to see that level of commitment demonstrated live.

The Horizon in Aging Research panel addresses our need, as experts or at least informed actuaries, to examine how our understanding of mortality is evolving. We are at an exciting crossroads where aging is studied on its own as the common risk factor for so many diseases, with the appropriate tools of molecular biology. It is also key to understanding the consequences, demographics, social implications and impact on the insurance industry.

The core of the symposium is, of course, the research papers. Once again, this year the diversity of topics and presenters is great. Although a majority of the researchers are based in the U.S., we will have speakers from the UK, Denmark, India, Taiwan, and Australia. Topics will vary from state-of-the-art technical papers to descriptive papers on what is happening, and papers describing the consequences of some of the trends we are noticing. There is no way for me to do justice to that smorgasbord of topics, so I encourage you to visit the Living to 100 website agenda.

This concludes my sneak preview of the official content of the symposium, but I would be remiss if I did not touch on a key - and unique - aspect of the symposium: You will be among peers, many being experts on various topics of aging, all interested in understanding how aging research will change the future. Not only can you engage with many fellow attendees but, as many presenters stay for the whole symposium, you can engage with them offline as well.

Between those opportunities for growing a network of contacts, and through similar opportunities in subsequent symposiums, we have, in my opinion, the secret sauce that makes the symposium such a unique meeting. But don’t take my word for it: here is the link to register!

 

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