Below is a summary of Françoise Forette's presentation at the conference: "Make France a fully-fledged society" on 26 October 2021, which demonstrated how much the maintenance in activity, professional or otherwise, is beneficial to both individuals and society.

Medical literature is teeming with publications on the beneficial action on health and longevity of all forms of activity: productive activities for society (paid or voluntary), leisure activities, physical or sports activities, intellectual activity, domestic or artistic activities. All have given rise to numerous studies.

All forms of activity reduce mortality, increase healthy life expectancy, improve and maintain cognitive functions, but professional activity deserves a special mention.

A study by ILC-France and INSERM, published in 2014, confirmed the beneficial effect of prolonging professional activity on cognitive health. By combining the health and retirement data of 400,000 retirees from the RSI (a social security scheme for the self-employed), this work showed that delaying retirement by 5 years, for example from 60 to 65, can decrease the incidence of dementia by 15%.

Two longitudinal studies have focused on this area, among others:

  • The SHARE study (Survey of Health, Aging and Retirement in Europe): 80,000 Europeans from 20 countries monitored every two years since 2004 by health, economic, (wealth, pensions, jobs) and sociological (families, entourage, aids, leisure activities) parameters.
  • The HRS study (Health and Retirement Study): 20,000 Americans over 50 years of age followed since 1992 on the same type of parameters.

The SHARE study and the HRS study, although carried out in different continents, showed a significant and quantitatively comparable deleterious effect of retirement on cognitive functions when another activity is not resumed.

The SHARE study was able to quantify this. If we take as a reference the cognitive score of a person in professional activity, being retired for 10 years or more decreases this score by two. But if you actively take care of your family, your grandchildren, maintain social relations with your friends, help your neighbors, belong to a sports, artistic or other club, take part in an activity (political, union, municipal, volunteer in the city) this score doubles. Undertaking training or learning a foreign language can even triple it.

All activities increase the cognitive reserve that is built up from an early age and increases throughout life when the brain is stimulated through neuroplasticity. This allows the brain to strengthen and form new connections between neurons and to produce morphological changes with, for example, an increase in the volume of the hippocampus involved in memory mechanisms.

Another longitudinal study, the English Longitudinal Study on Aging (ELSA), began in 2003. It showed that the transition to retirement can lead to a loss of social group membership. This loss of social relationships when one does not undertake a new activity leads to an increase in mortality, a decrease in the quality of life, and a feeling of “depressogenic” uselessness. Mortality is 3 times higher among people who lose two social groups to which they belonged before retirement, compared to people who keep them or people who join two new circles.

A meta-analysis of four major American longitudinal studies (AddHealth, HRS, MIDUS, NSHAP) sought to determine the influence of social relationships formed during activities on the incidence of a number of risk factors for chronic diseases. Lack of social integration is significantly negatively correlated with high blood pressure, waist circumference, overweight, and biological stigmas of inflammation at all ages. However, social isolation is a major risk of retirement.

All the studies show that engagement in social activities, paid or unpaid, sports, artistic, political, union that allow integration into society have an impact not only on health, but on the quality of life, utility, and belonging. They generate optimism which is protective, especially against cardiovascular disease. Clearly, this is a strong scientific basis for promoting effective prevention that will promote healthy and productive longevity.

The icing on the cake for economists. In France, volunteering for over 50s represents 1.3% of GDP, senior workers 12%.


In partnership with ILC-UK, the ILC Europe Network hosted its inaugural conference in Brussels on 6 March 2024 to explore the challenges and opportunities associated with an ageing European society. Other ILC Global Alliance members in attendance included ILC-Czech Republic, ILC-France and ILC-Netherlands.

Much more attention needs to be paid to the positive effects of the use of art in healthcare. Art makes people feel better and helps them to better cope with their illness. Art can also mean a lot in the social domain and prevention, and in shortening hospital admissions.

The first Global Citizen Science for Health conference was held from 29 October to 1 November 2023. This is the registration of the keynote "The Participatory Turn in Health Research: Its Roots, Methods, Ethics, Validity and Future" by professor Dr Tineke Abma.