We believe that everyone deserves a colourful retirement and, in some ways, we’re already part way there. In the UK life expectancy has seen a sustained, improved trajectory, rising year on year. People are living longer – but are they living better?
At Legal & General, we’re following on from our investment in the Advanced Care Research Centre, to understand how we age, by investing in healthy ageing. We’re focusing on innovations aimed at improving health expectancy, tying in with the Government’s ‘healthy ageing’ strand of its Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund. Mostly using our own balance sheet, as well as a £6 million grant we won from Innovate UK, we’re investing in preventative-focused early-stage start-ups that use technology to improve ‘health expectancy’ by preventing, diagnosing or treating common conditions that affect quality of life, giving the people at the heart of our society the later life they deserve. By investing in these types of solutions, we can lessen the burden on the NHS and empower individuals to take control of their health as they age. Our two current portfolio companies are Current Health and Congenica.
We have set out four core areas of priority that will shape our investment, based on the biggest health risks: illnesses and conditions that are also mitigatable and, in some cases, preventable.
“Prevention and slowing the rate of type 2 diabetes is a big focus,” explains Jessica McCreadie, Investment Director of Health & Care at Legal & General Retirement. “At the moment one in 10 adults in the UK have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, although the actual number is far higher, but because it’s a lifestyle-linked disease healthy lifestyle changes and weight loss make it possible to achieve remission, or at the very least improve the prognosis.” At Legal & General, we would like to help our customers live healthier, longer lives, and taking a preventative approach by having a healthy and active lifestyle is one of the most effective ways of ensuring this.
Instances of loneliness and isolation can be particularly prevalent with the older population and our concern for this demographic has heightened in 2020. To be preventative, we must be proactive, and technology has a big role to play. Technology can help us catch signs of declining mental health and wellbeing early, and help people manage anxiety, depression and other mental health issues.
Alzheimer’s is the number one cause of death in women in the UK.1 So we’re exploring investment opportunities in start-ups that help mitigate the key risk factors science has proven contribute to risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s, such as loss of hearing, loss of sight and cardiovascular health. "We're investing to mitigate the key risk factors science has proven contribute to risk of dementia," says Chloe Hall, Investment Associate at Legal & General Retail Retirement.
We're investing to mitigate the key risk factors science has proven contribute to risk of dementia.
“The care needs of individuals increase in complexity as we age, and more of us are living longer and having children later in lower numbers, leading to a greying population. Coupled with this, we’re unfortunately suffering a decline in workforce in the care sector,” explains Hall. So we are particularly interested in investing in the solutions and devices that can help plug this gap, and make adult social care not only more effective, but more affordable and more sustainable.
Staying or becoming healthy as we age is not an alien concept – it’s something that lots of us are aware of and achieve, however human nature simply means that we don’t always do what’s best for us. “Following advice is not always easy, but giving people the technology that allows them to take ownership of their own health makes things a little bit easier,” says McCreadie.
Following advice is not always easy, but giving people the technology that allows them to take ownership of their own health makes things a little bit easier.
Educating ourselves about the healthy ageing process is crucial to better supporting this growing demographic of society. That’s why we’ve invested in things like the Advanced Care Research Centre (ACRC) in Edinburgh, a post-Covid approach to elderly care in Newcastle and Alzheimer’s Research UK’s #ShareTheOrange campaign. “This is just joining up all the parts of the puzzle that we’re already active in across Legal & General,” says McCreadie. Because the healthier people are physically and mentally, the more productive they are and the more they contribute to and, crucially, get back from society. In McCreadie’s words: “it’s all circular.”