Interview: “We aim to prepare dentists for care of the ageing population”
As people worldwide are living longer, the proportion of elderly people is increasing. In 2015, 900 million people were 60 years or older. This number is expected to reach a staggering two billion by 2050. The consequent pressure this puts on the medical profession is significant, and dentistry is no exception. A third-generation GC Group owner, Makoto Nakao served as CEO of GC Corp. for most of his life and is still active in the company as Chief Corporate Advisor. The demographic situation in his native Japan, as well as his retirement from his position as CEO at age 70 inspired him to establish the Nakao Foundation, which aims to promote healthy ageing through oral disease prevention, education and research.
Mr Nakao, why was the Nakao Foundation founded, and what is its mission and philosophy?
In 2000, GC was the first dental company to introduce the concept of minimally invasive dentistry, and since 2015, we have supported the Oral Health for an Ageing Population project of FDI World Dental Federation. As a Japanese company, this topic is especially relevant to us given our demographic situation as a super-ageing society. Through the Nakao Foundation, we aim to prepare dentists for care of the ageing population and their geriatric patients, to promote oral disease prevention on a global scale, to support and spread clinical research regarding the importance of oral health, and to invest in education and scientific research. We also aim to make sure that developments in dentistry find their way to dentists and the general public.
Actually, I first attempted to establish the foundation with my mother, Reiko Nakao, almost 30 years ago. Since then, the idea of the 100-year life, which refers to people on average living to an older age, has become a popular topic, so it was no coincidence that I finally established the Nakao Foundation right after my 70th birthday and final retirement from the board of directors of GC Corp.
Which problems are associated with an ageing population? What can we, or the Nakao Foundation, do to be prepared?
While an ageing population is a long-term and global development, it is important to note that the impact and quality of this ageing can vary greatly. A healthy person will age differently than a sick person in terms of physical strength, quality of life, and cost of and possibility of requiring medical care. That is why the Nakao Foundation is seeking to promote oral disease prevention and healthy ageing through identification, prevention, disease management and education.
"We want to support academic research, not for profit but because we believe this will make a significant and sustainable impact on people’s oral health."
How can the experience and knowledge gained at GC aid the Nakao Foundation? What is the synergy between the two?
The mission of GC is to develop and supply the products and information that practitioners need. Therefore, we believe that we are in a great position: being able to respond appropriately to requests and developments from our foundation’s research support programme and being able to promote the mission of the Nakao Foundation through GC.
The foundation is about to launch its first activities. What can we expect?
Yes, we are now at kick-off stage and just closed two board meetings, one with the foundation’s board and another with the management board, in which six world-renowned experts finalised a detailed procedure as well as the criteria for applying for funding. We will be starting the application process soon and encourage researchers to visit our website on regular basis. The call for applications will also be forwarded to all International Association for Dental Research members. We want to support academic research, not for profit but because we believe this will make a significant and sustainable impact on people’s oral health.