Challenging ageism and making next year younger


Julian Fairfield (76) is a bit of an aberration when it comes to business start-ups. In an era dominated by youngsters fresh out of tertiary education, Julian is a remarkable exception because, three years ago, he embarked on a ground-breaking new venture offering precision healthcare to New Zealanders aged from 60 up.

Julian’s company Autonomy has an interesting back story, because the company has not been born out of a lifelong ambition of his to enter the healthcare industry.

After a successful career as a management consultant advising luminaries such as former Lion Nathan chief executive Sir Douglas Myers and the Fred Hollows Foundation, Julian suddenly found himself battling atrial fibrillation and conditions that increased his risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and Alzheimer’s dementia.

“This was a wake-up call,” Julian says. Rather than accepting the conditions as the normal course of ageing, he instead delved into extensive research on the underlying causes of age-related conditions.

“My research showed that 70% of diseases we experience in our later years can be attributed to changeable lifestyle factors such as diet, exercise, sleep and mind state.”

Julian then tried to find anyone offering a service that combined the medical treatments, habit coaching and health monitoring specifically tailored to the needs of older adults to help them reverse or slow these conditions and diseases.

He couldn’t find anyone so used his retirement savings to assemble a precision healthcare team himself. That team is now Autonomy.

“Autonomy started as a personal project for addressing my own health, but has now become a mission to provide people like me with access to a service tailored to their specific health needs.”

Autonomy focuses on diseases common in older adults which can be mitigated or even prevented with personal doctor care and daily health habit changes and coaching.

“I am fully aware of my mortality, but now feel so positive, confident and in control of my health,” Julian says.

“I spend my days talking to older Autonomy clients about how to address their unique conditions so they feel the same way.”

Julian’s story is a powerful reminder that it’s never too late to change the course of your life and that if you act for, rather than hope for, a healthy later life, you should have confidence in ageing with dignity, health and independence.

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