Bioethics 31 (9):657-665 (2017)

As the world's population ages, governments and non-governmental organizations in developed countries are promoting healthy cognitive ageing to reduce the rate of age-related cognitive decline and sustain economic productivity in an ageing workforce. Recommendations from the Productivity Commission, Dementia Australia, Government Office for Science, Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues, Institute of Medicine, among others, are encouraging older adults to engage in mental, physical, and social activities. These lifestyle recommendations for healthy cognitive ageing are timely and well supported by scientific evidence but they make implicit normative judgments about the responsibility of ageing individuals to prevent cognitive decline. Ethical tensions arise when this individual responsibility collides with social and personal realities of ageing populations. First, we contextualize the priority given to healthy cognitive ageing within the current brain-based medical and social discourses. Second, we explore the individual responsibility by examining the economic considerations, medical evidence and individual interests that relate to the priority given to healthy cognitive ageing. Third, we identify three key ethical challenges for policymakers seeking to implement lifestyle recommendations as an effective population-level approach to healthy cognitive ageing. The result is a prospectus for future in-depth analysis of ethical tensions that arise from current policy discussions of healthy cognitive ageing.
Keywords brain health  cognitive ageing  lifestyle  neuroethics  policy  public health
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DOI 10.1111/bioe.12387
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