The International Longevity Center is a research and education organization that was founded in 1990 by Robert N. Butler, M.D., founding Chairman of the Department of Geriatrics and Adult Development. It was created in response to the dual twentieth-century phenomena of greater longevity and population aging. More than 25 years of life have been added to average life expectancy in the industrialized world in this century alone. Population aging is a consequence of increased longevity combined with lower birth rates. As people live longer and fewer children are born, older people comprise a higher proportion of the population.
Both the longevity revolution and population aging have a significant impact on our lives and on the health and social programs and policies we design as we approach the twenty-first century. The effects of longevity and population aging pervade the entire life cycle and all aspects of society, including family, health care, the economy and financial markets, advertising, products and services, employment, housing, education, and so on. These effects range from personal to public, from community-based to global. Most important, they raise many questions about how we treat all members of society, and they require new thinking and innovative planning to meet the changing needs of individuals, families, communities, and the world.
The International Longevity Center was founded in order to help societies address longevity and population aging in positive and productive ways. The ILC's vision is a world in which old age is universally recognized as a new, vital stage of life, and older people's contributions to their families and society are valued. In 1998, the ILC became a separate 501(c)(3) corporation that continues to be affiliated with Icahn School of Medicine.
Believing that the longevity revolution and population aging are global events, and that nations must work together and learn from one another about how to best respond to these demographic changes, the ILC-USA has joined with international collaborators to work on these issues. In addition to the ILC-USA, ILCs exist in Japan, France, the United Kingdom, and the Dominican Republic, and other sites are under consideration. Together, this confederation of ILCs works collaboratively and autonomously on cross-national and other projects.
The ILC has a broad research and education agenda in the areas of health, family, and work that targets a variety of audiences, including leaders at the forefront of change in the public and private sectors, other organizations, the media, and the public at large. In the design of its projects, the ILC strives to be international, interdisciplinary, and intergenerational. The types of questions the ILC addresses include:
- How can we care for our older loved ones within our own families and communities?
- How can we design work and retirement policies that take into account the longer work histories and earning potential of older workers?
- What is the impact of the global economy and worldwide changing demography upon the prosperity of individual nations?
- How can we as a nation learn from the successes and failures of other societies in planning for the changing needs of their citizenry, and how can we share what we know with nations that have not yet begun to consider or plan for the shifts in population aging and longevity they will experience as we enter the new millennium?
- How will these changes in the composition of our society affect families and children and the ways in which the generations interact and care for each other?
The vast demographic shifts in the United States and throughout the world are unparalleled in history, and they require new and innovative approaches to address them at the personal, local, and international levels.