According to a memorable summary of Newton’s Third Law of Motion, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

Perhaps someday geroscience — the study of human aging and its impacts — will identify a law similar to Newton’s Third.

That thought came to mind as we read a Sunday report in the Herald-Tribune, by Barbara Peters Smith, on the emerging field of science surrounding aging. An Associated Press article predicting a “global retirement crisis” reinforced that notion.

The report by Peters Smith, a veteran reporter who covers aging-related issues, focused on Florence Katz of Sarasota, a 98-year-old woman who remains happy, healthy and active.

She is not alone: Longevity has increased dramatically in the United States and the Western world; for millions of those older adults, life is good.

But the article also recognized the downsides of longevity — difficulties associated with disabilities, health and memory problems, lack of long-term income.

New stage, new world

Experts and demographers debate the details of life expectancies but, in general, there is no dispute about the aging of the planet’s population. Consider this: There are now more people over 65 than under 15.

Linda P. Fried, dean of public health at Columbia University, told Peters Smith that the increase in life expectancy “offers us a new stage … and we’re not very well prepared for it.”

The AP report focused on a troubling and pervasive lack of preparation worldwide. The news service quoted Norman Dreger, a retirement specialist in Germany, who said: “The first wave of under-prepared workers is going to try to go into retirement and will find they can’t afford to do so.”

Dreger and other experts cited three factors affecting the “first wave”:

•Countries are slashing retirement benefits and raising the age to start receiving them.

•Companies have eliminated traditional pension plans that cost employees nothing and guaranteed them a monthly check in retirement.

•Many individuals spent freely and failed to save before the recession, and they saw much of their wealth disappear once it hit.

There will be exceptions to this despair. The Manatee-Sarasota region has long attracted financially successful retirees who planned well for retirement.

But even in regions such as ours, there are reasons to doubt whether past trends will be repeated in the future — especially if retirees lack the economic advantages of guaranteed pensions or large, secure investment accounts.

What’s more, the need for expensive long-term care, in assisted living facilities or nursing homes, can quickly drain even substantial financial reserves or lead patients to spend down their assets.

The political responses to such concerns usually involve debates over whether to raise the age for Social Security benefits or create a new program for younger Americans. Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are vital components of the existing social safety net. Yet there are signs that those programs, designed decades ago, will not be sustainable in a radically different era without alterations.

Government should play a large role in helping societies and individuals navigate the wholesale changes. But foundations, nonprofits, think tanks and private-sector companies must be key players as well.

Aim high

It is not a stretch, in our view, to contend that aging trends warrant a multi-level campaign on par with the Manhattan Project or America’s race to the moon.

Fortunately, research institutions — including universities — are increasingly focusing resources on the study of aging.

Just as important, the private sector — not just nonprofits, but businesses — are beginning to pay close attention to longevity. That’s because there is money to be made.

The aging population will need traditional services — health care at doctors’ offices, outpatient facilities and hospitals, at-home aid, assisted living and nursing home care.

But there is also an emerging industry that seeks to use technology to make older adults safer, healthier and more comfortable in their homes.

Lively, a West Coast firm, has designed a product to monitor and communicate with seniors living alone. Care Innovations has tested a product that coordinates care for elders who need assistance to remain at home. Other products use technology to help seniors safely exercise or protect their bones against degeneration.

Thanks to the Institute for the Ages, a Sarasota-based nonprofit, monitors, communication devices and other products for aging seniors and their families have been tested in our own community — which has one of the oldest populations in the nation.

The Institute for the Ages is also collaborating with researchers to foster systems and policies designed to accommodate the impacts of increased longevity.

This work is vital. Even though Sarasota County and the surrounding region have substantial resources available to seniors, greater collaboration between service providers is warranted and new approaches to meeting the needs of aging adults — and, don’t forget, their families and caretakers — will be vital.

Fried, of Columbia University, and others are appropriately concerned about the lack of preparation for this demographic tsunami. But, Fried added, “Preparation could actually lead to a pretty good outcome …”

Fortunately, just such preparations are in motion, in recognition of the fact that the blessings of longer life also come with challenges that communities and societies must confront and overcome.