In the final presentation Langa concluded with the group’s recommendation. “We need to gather data about what older adults actually want in terms of new opportunities for ongoing engagement, productivity, and learning into older age,” he said. “What are the preferences of people, and are there differences in preference over various social groups? Are there significant differences across class, across socioeconomic status?”

Langa also introduced the concern that had become a theme in this task group’s discussion. “We don’t think we have a great sense of what the currently existing programs are,” he said. “We’d like to put that information together and gather what’s out there in terms of current programs … evaluate these programs and their consequences in terms of health and healthspan.” The group also suggested that a prize, designed to award programs that successfully improve the functional status of the elderly, might spur further research.

Overall, the group suggested that our social structures need greater plasticity so that they can better meet the needs of both our aging society as a whole and the needs of individuals as they grow and change. Organizations that are already working toward this kind of plasticity must be recognized and encouraged if we want to see an increased human healthspan and push the limits of human health.

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