Mobility and gait: the next great challenge to face in ageing mainland China

We're working collaboratively with our partner in mainland China to establish a Healthy Ageing Innovation ecosystem, which aims to help businesses develop innovative products and services to support the citizens of both countries to maintain mobility, age well, and remain independent for longer.


Man walking down the street in China using a walking stick and carrying a bag


Most of us don’t imagine that things like walking around and getting in and out of a chair will start to become difficult until we get older. We want to age well and remain independent for as long as possible, that is why maintaining mobility and gait is so important for the quality of later life.

The global population is growing in both number and age. By 2050 there will be 9.7 billion people worldwide, with one in six being over the age of 65 – up from 1 in 11 in 2019 (United Nations, 2019). The annual spending power for people aged 60 and over will reach US$15 trillion (Colangelo and World, 2019). This shift in demographic poses both issues and opportunities for organisations across the globe, creating a new market – the longevity economy.

Mainland China has one of the world’s largest population at 1.4 billion. Its population is ageing at the fastest pace in human history, with its over-65 years old population reaching 190.6 million (13.5%) according to the 2020 China Population Census (NBSC, 2021). This number is expected to reach 380 million by 2050, which will result in an ageing society with 1 in 3 people aged over 65 (Sina, 2020). With extended life expectancy expected to reach 81.5 years by 2050 (United Nations, 2019c), and lower mortality rates, Mainland China is also experiencing a continuously declining birth rate. Mainland China registered only 10 million newborns in 2020, 15% lower than 2019, despite ‘one child’ restrictions being eased. The fertility rate in mainland China has decreased annually to 1.05% in 2019, lowest since 2000 (China Pension Weekly, 2020).

This massive demographic change creates a bonanza of long-term investment opportunities in a wide range of innovation areas, including mobility, automation and robotics, service industry, MedTech, beauty and fashion, entertainment, housing, lifestyles, and financial services. The aged care industry in mainland China reached RMB 6.9 trillion (US$ 1trillion) in 2019 and is expected to hit 10 trillion (US$1.5 trillion) in 2022 (Zhang 2017). This sunrise industry is now opening to global investors.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang (Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the PRC, 2021):

Industries related to services for elderly people are big sunrise industries as there is diverse demand among the senior population. The Chinese market is multi-tiered with diverse consumer demand. This big, open market represents great opportunities for products, services and investments from foreign companies.

Report contents

  • Why society is desperate for ageing-friendly urban renewal and product innovation to support mobility and gait in older adults
  • Why mainland China is on the go, but much more is needed
  • Renovation and innovation in the home
  • How bilateral collaboration can benefit older adults
  • Urban renewal and innovation technology for the public

These activities are funded through the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Fund for International Collaboration (FIC), delivered by Innovate UK, part of UKRI.

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